Throat cancer and an abnormal protein

Hot on the heels of revelations from Hollywood star Michael Douglas in June of the link between his throat cancer and HPV, comes research from Oxford University that more than a third carry antibodies to the Human Papilloma virus and these antibodies could be detected in patients’ blood even in samples taken more than 10 years before the cancer was diagnosed. By comparison, less than 1% of people without cancer carried the antibodies.

Researchers took blood samples from 938 patients with head and neck, oesophageal (gullet) and oropharyngeal cancers and from 1,599 people without the disease. They found that more than a third of those who had oropharyngeal cancers also carried antibodies to one of HPV’s key cancer-causing proteins – a protein from the HPV16 virus called E6. E6 protein disables the p53 protein, which is often called the ‘guardian of the genome’ because it protects cells from DNA damage and cancer development. Having antibodies against this HPV protein indicates that HPV’s cancer-causing processes have been activated before.

The Cancer Research UK study shows that E6, a strain of the HPV virus, attacks the p53 protein, which guards cells against cancer. Infection with certain types of the HPV virus significantly increases the risk of oropharyngeal cancers – those in the back of the throat – according to a new study. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.


July - Oct 2013 Cancer Watch
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