Discussing HPV and the Host Genome

The WVU Cancer Institute will hold its Annual DeLynn Lecture with Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD, who will lecture on HPV and the Host Genome, at 4 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 4, in the WVU Health Sciences Center's Fukushima Auditorium (room 1901). A Q&A session will follow the lecture. The event is free and open to the public. For those who cannot attend, the event also will be webcast.

Dr. Gillison currently serves as a professor in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. An expert on head and neck cancer, Gillison is optimistic that new knowledge about HPV as a cause of the disease will help physicians to treat it — and eventually to prevent it with a vaccine. “In terms of cancer,” she said, “there aren't many populations where we've identified the necessary cause and have a potential solution on the shelf.”

In 2007, Gillison published her seven-year population study showing the link between oral HPV infection and oropharyngeal cancer; the next year, she released a study showing that HPV-positive and HPV-negative oropharyngeal cancers had completely different risk profiles.

People with HPV-positive cancer tended to have had many oral-sex partners, but there was no statistical association with tobacco smoking or drinking; those with HPV-negative cancers were heavy drinkers and cigarette smokers but there was no association with sexual activity.

“These were two completely different diseases,” Gillison said. “They might superficially look similar — a patient comes in with a neck mass and their throat hurts — but I realized what drove the pathogenesis was completely different in the two cases.”

In 2007, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, declared that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that HPV causes a subset of oropharyngeal cancers. Gillison's research has been “definitive,” said Jeffrey Myers, director of head and neck surgery research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"We are honored to host Dr. Gillison at WVU and to give our colleagues an opportunity to have a discussion about the future of this research,” Richard M. Goldberg, MD, director of the WVU Cancer Institute, said. “Her study of HPV in head and neck cancers resulted in a shift in concepts of risk, diagnosis, and how we treat head and neck cancer. She was the first medical oncologist and molecular epidemiologist to make the association of human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer, and her experience and unique insight will be very valuable to our practitioners and students.”

The DeLynn Lecture Series was created from a generous gift to the WVU Cancer Institute Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center by Jean and the late Laurence DeLynn. Because of their generosity, the Institute is able to attract some of the most prominent cancer advocates and scientists to the WVU campus for the benefit of the University and Morgantown community.

The DeLynns have touched the lives of countless individuals throughout the Morgantown area and beyond. When they ran successful businesses in Morgantown, they also made a commitment to share their prosperity with the community. Their efforts continue to improve the health and welfare of others today, including those who benefit from the services provided by the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.

The DeLynns have had a tremendous impact on the development and growth of the Cancer Center. Jean helped organize the first statewide fundraising extravaganza to have the Center built in Morgantown. In addition to the lectureship series, the couple established the Jean L. and Laurence S. DeLynn Chair of Oncology; the Laurence and Jean DeLynn Cancer Research Fellowship; and the Laurence and Jean DeLynn Professorship in Cancer. They also provided the seed money to establish the Cancer Information Service and the Blood and Marrow Transplant Research Program, the only program of its kind in West Virginia.

For more information: Lori Acciavatti, WVU Cancer Institute, 304-293-8460