Five years after diagnosis, only 40 percent of patients with locally-advanced oral cavity cancer will still be alive. The question is who is likely to live and who is likely to die? The answer to this question could not only help patients better predict the course of their disease, but could help doctors choose the most appropriate post-surgical treatments—patients at highest risk could receive the most aggressive combinations of radiation and chemotherapy.
To answer this question, researchers from University of Colorado Cancer Center gathered the information of 149 patients treated at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital with surgery and/or post-surgical treatments for locally-advanced oral cavity cancer between the years 2000 and 2015. In these data, they looked for patterns.
“We wanted to know if features of these patients, their tumors, or their treatment could predict survival,” says first author Ding Ding, a medical student working with her research mentor, senior author Sana Karam, MD, Ph.D., investigator at CU Cancer Center and assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at the CU School of Medicine.
First, the researchers confirmed a handful of expected risk factors: As seen in many previous studies, being nonwhite, uninsured or insured by Medicaid, having a larger primary tumor, having “margins” around the tumor that tested positive for cancer even after surgery, or having tumors that had already invaded surrounding tissues predicted shorter overall survival.
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