• Press Release

Study Explores Cancer Risks and Oral HPV Prevalence in Partners with HPV Related Throat Cancer

Findings Suggest Oral HPV Infection and Cancer Exposure Remains Low

  • (May 02, 2014)

Many patients with throat cancer associated with oral human papillomavirus (HPV) have anxiety about transmitting the virus to their partners’ and increasing their cancer risk. However, a multi-center prospective study co-led by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai suggests that cancer risk in partners remain low. The research is reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).

“The incidence of HPV-related cancer has increased dramatically over the past three decades, but we have limited understanding how the disease progresses of if it is transmitted to the partners of these patients,” said Marshall Posner, MD, Director of Head and Neck Medical Oncology and Office of Cancer Clinical Trials, Associate Director of the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapeutics, and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology, Tisch Cancer Center at Mount Sinai. “Often, HPV infections that do become cancers often take years to develop. This is the first study to demonstrate that partners of HPV patients with cancer do not have any detectable cancer DNA, and that most partners are not exposed to any active infections.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV with 14 million new cases each year. HPV is commonly spread through sexual contact. Most sexually-active men and women are diagnosed with one type of HPV at some point in their lives. In the United States, more than half of the cancers diagnosed in the oropharynx are linked to HPV.

The study reviewed the histories of 164 patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-ONC) and 93 of their spouses or long-term partners. The subjects were enrolled in head and neck cancer clinics at four study sites including Mount Sinai, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Oregon Health and Science University.

Participants in the study were given an oral rinse where exfoliated cells were collected along with a base line blood sample and cancer history. A detailed risk factor survey was also collected at each visit, including questions on demographics, tobacco and alcohol use, and detailed sexual behaviors. Of the 164 enrolled patients with HPV-ONC, most had stage 4 cancers and oral HPV DNA in their tumors. Partners were primarily female, had performed oral sex, and were never smokers.

This study was funded by the Johns Hopkins Richard Gelb Prevention Award, and a research grant from the Early Detection Research Network.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,480 primary and specialty care physicians; 11 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 12 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Orthopedics in the 2019-2020 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and Mount Sinai South Nassau is ranked 35th nationally for Urology. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Mount Sinai West, and Mount Sinai South Nassau are ranked regionally.

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