Nav: Home

Study provides new guidelines for assessing severity of head and neck cancers

January 24, 2018

LOS ANGELES - Jan. 24, 2018 - Cedars-Sinai investigators have developed a new, more accurate set of guidelines for assessing the severity of head and neck cancers and predicting patient survival.

The new guidelines, outlined in a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, center around counting the number of malignant lymph nodes found in each patient.

"The greater the number of malignant lymph nodes, the less favorable the patients' chances of survival," said Allen S. Ho, MD. Ho is director of the Head and Neck Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai and lead author of the study. "This new approach could dramatically simplify staging systems."

For decades, doctors have determined the stage and predicted the progression of head and neck cancers based primarily on nodal size, location and how far the cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes, but they have given less importance to the number of cancerous nodes. As a result, staging and treatment recommendations, based on current national guidelines, "are the same whether a patient has two or 20 positive lymph nodes," said Zachary S. Zumsteg, MD, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Cedars-Sinai and the study's senior author.

With the new system, based on the number of cancerous lymph nodes, patients are separated into similarly sized groups with distinct outcomes, Zumsteg said. "Our study demonstrated a better way to assess cancer severity, which will improve our ability to predict outcomes and give patients more personalized treatment."

The Cedars-Sinai study involved reviewing data of 14,554 U.S. patients identified in the National Cancer Database who were treated for squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity (mouth, gum and tongue) between 2004 and 2013.

The data showed that an increased risk of death was associated with each additional cancerous lymph node found. The investigators concluded that the number of cancerous lymph nodes is a predominant, independent factor associated with death in those patients. The study also identified an ultra-high-risk group of patients with five or more cancerous lymph nodes.

Head and neck cancers occur in the lips, tongue, gums, bottom of the mouth, throat, larynx, nasal cavity and salivary glands. About 63,000 people developed head and neck cancers in the U.S. in 2017. More than 13,000 deaths from those cancers occurred during that period, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

"Although considering the number of cancerous lymph nodes in staging is a simple concept that many head and neck cancer specialists have assumed to be true for years, data has been limited until now," Zumsteg said. The study authors said they hope that, based on the new data, the number of positive nodes in staging will now be incorporated into clinical practice.
-end-
Research reported in this publication was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health under award number R01 CA188480-01A1, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences under award numbers UL1TR000124 and UL1TR001881-01, the Donna and Jesse Garber Award for Cancer Research and the Health Network Foundation Service Excellence Award.

Disclosure: Dr. Zumsteg serves on the external advisory board of the Scripps Proton Therapy Center and has been a paid consultant for EMD Serono.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Related Cancer Articles:

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.