A Review of Recent Research Reports on Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Research on nasopharyngeal cancer treatment, causes, and prevention is being done in a number of university hospitals as well asmedical centers and other medical research institutions around the globe. Here are some of the latest trends and findings about this rare type of cancer:

Causes and Prevention

Many researchers are looking at how the possible link between the Epstein-Barr virus or EBV and nasopharyngeal cancer. Researchers undertaking these studies hope may to eventually develop vaccines for the prevention of some cases of nasopharyngeal cancer by avoiding EBV infection. Fresh findings about EBV and the immune system’s reaction to it have already paved the way for new blood tests aimed at helping detect nasopharyngeal cancer early. These tests also aim to predict, more accurately, the possible responses to treatment.

Treatment: What’s in the Pipeline?

New surgical techniques – Developments in skull base surgery (including endoscope usage in the nose) are now allowing doctors to remove certain types of tumors from the nasopharynx and other hard to reach areas. This surgery type may offer hope for patients suffering from recurrent nasopharyngeal cancer as well as those afflicted with keratinizing types of nasopharyngeal cancer that are unresponsive to radiation therapy.

New techniques in radiation therapy – Researchers are now focusing on new types of treatment that use proton to kill cancer cells. Unlike x-rays that release energy before and after hitting the target, protons release energy only after traveling to a specific distance, thereby causing minimal damage to the tissues they pass through. New researches indicate that proton beam radiation is likely to deliver more radiation to the cancer tumor while doing less damage to normal tissues nearby. Further research is needed to establish that this technique is better than IMRT. Proton therapy machines are also quite expensive, limiting the availability of this treatment.

In addition, researchers are trying to determine the most optimum schedule for administering radiation therapy. External radiation treatments are typically given daily, five days a week for several weeks in a row. Research is underway to check if givingsmaller doses two times a day or giving them over fewer days might more helpful.

Chemotherapy research – New chemotherapy drugs, drug combinations, and methods of giving drugs are being studiekd for treating advanced nasopharyngeal cancer. Some drugs that are already widely used to treat other types of cancers–including capecitabine, gemcitabine, and oxaliplatin, are being studied for nasopharyngeal cancer as well. Clinical trials are determining if the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy might be an effective method of treating nasopharyngeal cancer.

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