Advancing Our Knowledge of
Head and Neck Cancer

As the sixth most common cancer worldwide, head and neck cancer encompasses an extensive range of specific cancer types: facial skin cancers, thyroid cancers, salivary gland cancers and cancers of the mouth and throat. 

In Virginia, more than 800 new cases of oral cancer occur each year, with many concentrated in the eastern part of the commonwealth.

The American Cancer Society recently identified seven cancers on the rise, including HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

Despite the development of new treatments and advances in surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, prognosis for head and neck cancer has not improved in more than three decades. At the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center, our experts are working to improve these grim statistics.

MORE THAN 70,000 AMERICANS ARE DIAGNOSED WITH HEAD AND NECK CANCER EVERY YEAR

DISCOVERING THE ANSWERS THAT BENEFIT OUR PATIENTS

As both a medical school and health-care center, we have the power to work from bench to bedside and from bedside to bench. We believe this approach will lead to new and effective diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies for head and neck cancer. We start by asking the right questions. What can we do to improve early detection rates, while building our understanding of what causes cancer recurrence? Why do some head and neck cancers resist chemotherapy and radiation? And how can we develop new drugs that fight cancer as it progresses? Finding answers will benefit all patients — even those far beyond Hampton Roads. 

Current projects include:

  • Establishing and building a head and neck cancer tissue database, so we can compare clinical outcomes
  • Evaluating cancer stem cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) including human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Using proteomics to pinpoint biomarkers, which can indicate the likelihood of distant metastatic disease after surgery or as a response to chemoradiation
  • Exploiting exosomes to identify new targeted therapy for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma 
  • Enrolling patients in national clinical trials, which study both targeted chemotherapeutics and new surgical technologies, such as transoral robotic-assisted procedures. 

 

WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER. 

EVMS’s Head and Neck Cancer Initiative is a collaborative effort between the region’s top clinicians, biologists, statisticians and chemists. Created in partnership with the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center, EVMS Otolaryngology, and Sentara Healthcare — with additional assistance from Old Dominion University and the College of William & Mary — we’re addressing head and neck cancer’s biggest challenges. Together, we’re leveraging our strengths and building a multi-disciplinary approach that provides the most benefit to our patients. 

“HEAD AND NECK CANCER AFFECTS THE ESSENCE OF WHO WE ARE: OUR FACE, SIGHT, SOUND, SPEECH, TASTE, AND HEARING. ALTHOUGH THIS SIXTH MOST COMMON ARRAY OF CANCERS IS NOT RARE, IT UNFORTUNATELY HAS NOT OFTEN ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF THE PUBLIC AND MEDIA. WE HAVE BUILT A TALENTED AND EXPERIENCED MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM TO RESEARCH AND FIGHT THIS POTENTIALLY DEVASTATING DISEASE.“

Daniel Karakla, MD
Associate Professor;
Chief, Head and Neck Oncology/Endocrine Surgery
EVMS Otolaryngology

HOPE TAKES TEAMWORK. 

Our fight against head and neck cancer is just beginning. There is so much more we can do — and so many more lives we can impact — through our research. EVMS researchers hope to start identifying head and neck cancer even earlier, so we have a better chance of targeting and destroying it before it grows. By funding EVMS, you’re not only helping us expand the scope of our research — you’re helping us save lives. 

Together, we can make a difference in the fight against head and neck cancer.

Visit evms.edu/canoles or call EVMS Development at 757.965.8500.