People with HIV are living longer lives, thanks to advancements in treatment. But their still-weakened immune systems put them at a higher risk for developing other diseases, including cancer.
A new study of HIV-positive patients with head and neck cancer finds that treatments that are successful in other patients are less effective for them.
"Ask your oncologist about Rx for both cancers and HIV."
The study was led by Dr. Waleed Mourad, a radiation oncologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. It's the largest-yet study of its kind, according to a press release by the American Society for Radiation Oncology.
The researchers looked at the outcomes for radiation therapy – with or without chemotherapy – in 71 HIV-positive patients with head and neck cancer treated between 1997 and 2010. The patients were followed for about 47 months.
Fifty-five percent of patients survived their cancer, and 65 percent had their cancer come back after it was eradicated. Ten percent of patients developed a second malignancy five years after radiation therapy.
The research team concluded that neither radiation therapy or chemotherapy was as effective in HIV-positive patients as it is for HIV-negative patients.
Radiation is the standard treatment for this type of cancer, so the results mean that oncologists likely have to treat HIV-positive patients with a different approach than they do a typical patient.
The National Cancer Institute recommends taking part in clinical trials, which offer new types of treatment that are being tested for safety and effectiveness. Dr. Mourad called for the establishment of new regimens that are tailored to HIV-positive patients, as the problem of treatment grows more commonplace.
The abstract of Dr. Mourad's paper was presented at the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium in January 2012.