HPV and Cancer: How the Base of the Tongue and Tonsils Are Affected

Approximately 8 million people across the U.S. are infected with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Not all of those infected will get cancer, but an increasing number will. Transmitted by kissing and intimate contact, HPV is a leading cause of base of tongue and tonsil cancer, so vaccination for prevention is key.

Ted Teknos, MD, professor and chair, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute touches on several treatment options, including surgery, though the best way to prevent HPV-related cancer is by receiving the HPV vaccine.

To further develop treatment options, research is also happening at the OSUCCC – James around HPV-related base of tongue and tonsil cancer. A scientist at the OSUCCC – James has figured out how HPV causes cancer and has developed a drug that “turns off” the virus, which has been shown to be highly effective in the lab. The drug will be submitted to the FDA for approval later this year. Other research looks at the genetics of these tumors, and Dr. Teknos said immunotherapy is also key in targeting the tumors.