Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is the most common cancer originating in the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose where the nasal passages and auditory tubes join the remainder of the upper respiratory tract. It is known that the majority of cases are associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), one of the most common human viruses, most notably known as the cause of mono. While not continuing to make a person sick, once contracted, EBV always lives in a person’s body. In some cases, EBV can lead to cancers like NPC or lymphoma. Chrystal Louis, MD a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine plans to study alternative ways to treat NPC cases caused by EBV, in order to one day try to reduce treatment side effects.
Most commonly found in pediatric patients between 10 -17 years old, NPC often goes undiagnosed until it reaches an advanced stage and has spread to the lymph nodes. Due to its location, surgical removal is not an effective treatment option, so doctors rely on high doses of radiation and chemotherapy. Because the high-dose radiation treatments are to the face and neck, the side effects of current treatment can leave patients with long term affects such as hearing loss, dental issues, and chronic dry mouth.