Author | Mark Agulnik, MD

Articles

Head and Neck Cancer: Changing Epidemiology and Public Health Implications

September 15, 2010

Characterizing the epidemiology of head and neck cancers is challenging and has received limited attention in the medical literature. Traditionally, 80%–90% of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) have been attributed to tobacco and alcohol use, but with growing public awareness and tobacco control efforts over the past few decades, there has been a downward trend in smoking prevalence in the US. There is also emerging evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for inconsistencies in HNSCC trends, with oncogenic HPV DNA found in approximately half of oropharyngeal cancers and in a high proportion of oropharyngeal cancers in nonsmokers and nondrinkers. The risk to HNSCC epidemiology is that whatever gains continue to be made in tobacco control may become lost in the increasing numbers of oropharyngeal cancers due to HPV. The purpose of this review is to explore the changing epidemiology of HNSCC, focusing on how it has been shaped by health policy and advocacy interventions and how it will continue to have public health implications in the future, particularly in considering preventive strategies against HPV. Given that the majority of HNSCCs are the result of exposure to preventable public health risks, more focus should be given to this area.

New Therapeutic Options in Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

February 01, 2008

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors have until recently had a uniformly poor prognosis with lack of effective drug therapies. These tumors usually have activating mutations in either KIT or PDGFR-α tyrosine kinase receptors. Over the past decade, imatinib (Gleevec), a selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor has become the standard of care for the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable and metastatic disease. For patients with imatinib-resistant disease or intolerant to the side effects of imatinib, sunitinib (Sutent), a multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor was recently approved. For earlier-stage disease, status post–complete surgical excision, preliminary data seem encouraging for the role of adjuvant imatinib in prolonging patients' disease-free interval. The impact of neoadjuvant drug therapy needs to be further classified and explored. With additional evaluation of other tyrosine kinase inhibitors and novel therapies against other molecular markers, the treatment paradigm for this malignancy should continue to evolve.