Onc Daily: World-First Saliva Test, Identifying 'Exceptional Responders'

Jennifer Smith

May 20, 2020

Here are the most important stories that Medscape Oncology's editors picked for you to read today:

World First: Saliva Test Detects Occult HPV Oral Cancer

For the first time, a saliva test has detected oropharyngeal cancer caused by human papillomavirus-16 (HPV-16) in an asymptomatic adult. The case report was published in Frontiers in Oncology.

The saliva test, which involves swishing a rinse in the mouth and spitting into a tube, is being used to measure oral HPV-16 DNA in an ongoing study of 650 healthy subjects. One subject was consistently positive for HPV-16 DNA, and the patient's viral load rose over time. A bilateral tonsillectomy revealed a 2 mm squamous cell carcinoma in the left tonsil. Two weeks after surgery, his HPV-16 DNA viral load was undetectable via the saliva test.

Tumor Molecular Profiling May Help Identify "Exceptional Responders"

The National Cancer Institute conducted a pilot study to identify genetic mutations associated with "exceptional responders," or patients with cancer who respond to therapies that have failed most of their peers. The findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers analyzed tumor specimens from 109 "exceptional responders" and found 6 tumors with germline mutations that are potentially clinically actionable — including BRCA1/2, CHEK2, and PALB2 mutations.

Clinicians, Researchers Adjust to COVID-19 Cancer Upheaval

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, talks with John Whyte, MD, MPH, chief medical officer at WebMD, about how COVID-19 has changed cancer screenings and research.

The American Cancer Society and other organizations have advised postponing cancer screening for people at average risk during the pandemic. However, people at highest risk and those with signs of cancer should not wait to get screened, according to Lichtenfeld. He says healthcare providers should communicate with patients about any changes to cancer screening policies to ensure patients receive the healthcare they need.

Lichtenfeld also notes that clinical trials have been stopped or delayed during the pandemic. For the trials that have continued, there have been changes to protocols and problems getting drugs to patients. However, research groups and medical organizations have found ways in which to conduct trials as safely and effectively as possible during the pandemic.

Good night, Jody

In a blog post, Alicia Staley reminisces about her friend and fellow breast cancer advocate Jody Schoger, who died in 2016. Staley and Schoger "met" on Twitter in 2009 via the hashtag #BeatCancer. The pair grew close while sharing their experiences as breast cancer patients.

After participating in the Health Care Social Media chat (founded by Dana Lewis), Staley and Schoger decided to launch their own chat specific to breast cancer, with the hashtag #BCSM. The pair was joined by Deanna Attai, MD, of the University of California Los Angeles.

Since the launch, there have been 254 Monday night #BCSM chats. But now, Staley and Attai must carry on without Schoger. Schoger's cancer returned after a 15-year remission, and she recently passed away.

Before she died, Schoger told Staley, "[Y]ou know what needs to be done for #BCSM. It's up to you to take care of them now."

Staley writes, "Yes, Jody, #BCSM will live on, and we will work to honor your memory with every chat. You can count on us."

Editor’s note: This article was amended to clarify that breast cancer advocate Jody Schoger died in 2016, not recently.

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