Conversion of Head and Neck Cancer Cells Into Radiation-Resistant Cancer Stem Cells Depends on HPV Status

Head and neck cancers that test positive for the herpes papilloma virus (HPV) are known to respond more favorably to radiation therapy than those that test HPV-negative, but an explanation for these differences has remained elusive. Now, UCLA scientists have shown for the first time that radiation treatment transforms cancer cells into head and neck cancer stem cells– which are known to be resistant to radiation therapy–more effectively when the cancer tests negative for HPV. These findings shed light on why some head and neck cancers fair much worse after radiation therapy despite optimum treatment regimens.

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