Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.
A study looking at the causes of mouth cancer
This study looked at the human papilloma virus (HPV), to see if it causes abnormal cells (pre cancers) and cancers of the mouth and top of the throat. These cancers are called oropharyngeal cancer or cancer of the oropharynx.
Cancer Research UK supported this study.
More about this trial
In this study, the people taking part were due to have samples of tissue taken (a
The study team also looked at tissue samples of people diagnosed with a type of cancer called
All of the tissue samples were looked at to see if HPV could be found.
Summary of results
The research team found that most of the cancer tissue samples did have human papilloma virus (HPV). The most common type (strain) of HPV found was HPV16.
They also found that a change in a
In this study 51 people with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx took part. Everyone who took part was being seen at Cambridge University Hospital.
There were 2 groups in this trial:
- prospective group
- retrospective group
24 people took part in the prospective group. In this group, people had samples of tissue (biopsies) taken from areas where they had cancer and areas that were cancer free. So 1 of the biopsies included normal cells and the other malignant (cancer) cells.
Researchers looked at the samples of tissue in a laboratory. They found that 18 out of 24 cancers (75%) had human papillomavirus (HPV positive).
Doctors then looked at the HPV positive cancers. They found 2 genes that were changed. From these genes, 1 called SYCP2 had the biggest change. And there was a higher than normal amount.
27 people took part in the retrospective group. The research team looked at samples of tissue that had been taken in the past (archival biopsies).
They found that 23 out of 27 cancers (around 85%) were HPV positive. When they looked at the HPV positive cancers, they found that the SYCP2 gene was also changed.
Researchers looked at the number of HPV positive cancers. They found that 41 out of 51 people (about 80%) had HPV16.
There are many different types of HPV and HPV16 is a high risk type of HPV. We know that people with HPV16 are more at risk of developing certain cancers.
They also looked at the amount of time people lived without signs of their cancer coming back. They call this disease free survival (DFS). They found it was:
- almost 44 months for everyone
- over 47 months for people with HPV positive cancer
- almost 50 months for people with change in the SYCP2 gene
Researchers found that having HPV 16 is linked to an increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx.
The team also concluded that the SYCP2 gene could be used in future as a way of finding out who is at increased risk of developing mouth and throat cancer (oropharyngeal cancer). And that the SYCP2 gene might be useful in being able to predict someone’s
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Peter Goon
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research: Cancer