Proliferative Leukoplakia and Oral Cancer Transformation


Glenn J. Hanna, MD, discusses proliferative leukoplakia and risk of oral cancer.

Glenn J. Hanna, MD, director, Center for Salivary and Rare Head and Neck Cancers, physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and assistant professor of Medicine, at Harvard Medical School, discusses proliferative leukoplakia (PL) and risk of oral cancer.


0:08 | As we know that oral leukoplakia, which is a whitish lesion in the mouth of undetermined malignant potential affects somewhere between 2% and 4% of the global population. But there's this subgroup of patients a small percentage of those who have a very high risk, oral precancerous leukoplakia called proliferative leukoplakia. And it looks just as it sounds very verrucous or heaped up proliferative sometimes erythematous, and it's usually multifocal throughout the mouth.

0:40 | What we've learned from our research and observational studies is that these patients have a very high risk of malignant transformation, meaning a high risk that they'll develop a cancer event within 3- to 5-year period. Some people have said up to 60% to 80% of the patients will develop oral cancer within about 5 years. And so, we did some preclinical work to understand how the immune environment might be dysregulated amongst the highest risk leukoplakias like PL and we found that there was a strong infiltration of T cells and maybe a microenvironment and immune environment that would lend itself to potential benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitors like immunotherapy.

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