New DNA therapy for advanced mouth cancer

A research team has been awarded a patent after developing a new DNA therapy for head and neck cancer sufferers.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the US, aim to develop a safe, effective alternative to standard chemotherapy treatments which cause debilitating side-effects.

Based on a form of genetic therapy called ‘antisense’, the new DNA therapy injections target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), blocking the growth of a protein which is found on the surface of many types of cancer cells.

During the initial Cancer Institute study, led by Dr Jennifer Grandis, the injections were well-tolerated, and the tumours which were being targeted by the treatment disappeared or shrank considerably in more than a quarter of the patients.

The British Dental Health Foundation has welcomed the latest development in treating this deadly disease.

Chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: ‘These new findings show that this new DNA therapy can have the potential as both a safe and effective advanced cancer treatment.

One of the major problems with mouth cancer is that it often presents in late stages, significantly reducing survival – so a late stage treatment is particularly welcome.

‘Head and neck cancers have a strong association with environmental and lifestyle risk factors including smoking tobacco, alcohol consumption and the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV).

‘Research has recently suggested that the HPV virus, transmitted via oral sex, could soon become the most common cause of mouth cancer.’

Cancers caused by viral infections can also be prevented by making positive lifestyle changes to reduce these risks.

World Cancer Day was marked around the globe yesterday (Thursday 4 February) in an effort to highlight the link between infections and cancer.

Dr Carter said: ‘Thirty per cent of mouth cancer cases have been linked to a poor diet. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol consumption lowers the risk of mouth cancer.’

The British Dental Health Foundation’s Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign, which runs each November in the UK with the message of ‘If In Doubt, Get Checked Out’, stresses the importance of following this advice by undertaking regular dental visits and self-examination

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