The largest and most definitive study to date has found that patients with stage III or IV oropharyngeal cancer (cancers of the upper throat) whose tumors contained the human papillomavirus (HPV) have better outcomes than patients with HPV-negative disease according to new research from the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG; Philadelphia).

"Our findings showed that HPV status is as strong a predictor of outcome as cancer stage for patients with oropharyngeal cancers, even after considering other factors such as age and smoking history," said lead author Maura Gillison, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and otolaryngology at Ohio State University (Columbus). "We're still not entirely sure why this is, but these data provide further evidence that HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer is a distinct disease entity."

RTOG, an NCI-funded national clinical trials group, is a clinical research component of the American College of Radiology (Philadelphia).