The University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute (UCCI) Comprehensive Head and Neck Cancer Center offers patient-centered care from an expert multidisciplinary team that focuses exclusively on treating cancers of the head and neck. This includes cancers of the oral cavity (tongue, jaw, lip, cheek, and hard palate), throat (tonsil, and base of tongue), voice box, nose and sinus cavity, skull base, salivary glands, thyroid gland and parathyroid glands. In addition to cancer of the head and neck mucosa, we also treat a high volume of complicated skin cancers of the head and neck, including cutaneous melanoma.
Researchers within the center are working to discover the underlying reasons these difficult-to-treat cancers develop, with hopes of stopping them in their tracks, and improving standardized treatments for better patient outcomes.
Teams of scientists within the center are conducting investigator-initiated clinical trials, only offered at the UC Cancer Institute, and novel basic research studies that could lead to new therapies for patients with head and neck cancers.
Some of their findings/research includes:
- Investigation of mutant genes in head and neck tumors that affect DNA repair and the use of novel drugs such as PARP1 inhibitors to selectively target tumor cells.
- Application of Next Generation Sequencing to identify genetic and epigenetic abnormalities that can facilitate personalized medicine for treatment of head and neck cancer.
- Studying cell-free nucleic acids in the blood and saliva as a potential non-invasive biomarkers for gauging effectiveness of treatment and for early detection of incident cancer, recurrence or metastasis.
- Assessing the functional effects of mutations by 3D modeling of proteins involved in cancer onset or progression to research methods of silencing the mutant proteins reactivating mutant tumor suppressors to prevent cancerous tumors from growing
- Differences between HPV-infected head and neck cancers and non-HPV infected cancers, with a focus on metabolic changes in tumors and using blood as potential biomarker.
- Using biomarkers including peripheral T cell activity as well as a human cancer-causing gene, called DEK, which can be detected in the plasma of head and neck cancer patients. DEK may help doctors understand how a person's immune system could be used to treat cancer or predict outcomes for patients.
- The discovery that an approved Type 2 diabetes drug, metformin, added to a chemotherapy and radiation treatment regimen in head and neck cancer could be beneficial.
- The exploratory use of a video educational tool to potentially enhance head and neck cancer patient understanding of radiation therapy and increase the efficiency and efficacy of informed consent.
- The use of novel protein arrays to detect mechanisms of adaptive resistance to radiation therapy and identify novel therapeutic targets.
- The advancement of immunotherapy (drugs that harbor a patient's own immune system to fight head and neck cancer), by combining immunotherapy with standard of care treatments. In addition, investigators are studying possible mechanisms of resistance to these therapies including T cell functions (T cell mobility and calcium signaling important for T cells to kill tumor cells).