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Dr. Jose P. Zevallos on Molecular Testing for Smokers With HPV+ Oropharyngeal SCC

Jose P. Zevallos, MD, MPH, FACS
Published Online:3:08 PM, Tue March 8, 2016


Jose P. Zevallos, MD, MPH, FACS, assistant professor, director of Oncologic Research, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, discusses the inequality of HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Zevallos says that while HPV-positive oropharyngeal SCC has a positive outcome for patients, smoking status should be taken into account for these patients when making a decision to deintensify therapy. He adds that medical professionals should not set an "arbitrary" bar for how much a patient smokes as a "dangerous amount," but instead turn to molecular testing.

Zevallos was part of a team of researchers looking at molecular profiles determined by targeted DNA sequencing to determine if patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal SCC, who were also smokers, had a different mutational status than non-smokers. The 66-patient study found distinct genomic differences between HPV-positive smokers and non-smokers, and that the mutations found in smokers with HPV-positive oropharyngeal SCC mimic the mutations of non-smokers with HPV-negative oropharyngeal SCC.
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