Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle

Does Marijuana Use Affect Survival in Patients With Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

By: Cordi Craig
Posted: Monday, November 25, 2019

Although previous studies have suggested an association between marijuana use and human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, no formal studies have evaluated differences in survival associated with marijuana use. Han Zhang, MD, FRCS, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and colleagues did not find any differences in survival between patients with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma who used marijuana and those who did not. Their study results, published in the Journal of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, may impact de-escalation regimens and the use of marijuana as a therapeutic agent.

Using a prospectively collected database of patients with head and neck cancer, the investigators identified 47 patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma who used marijuana. The patients were case-matched 1:1 with those who did not use marijuana based on gender, age, and clinical stage classification.

There appeared to be no significant difference between users and nonusers of marijuana in terms of 5-year overall survival (P = .40), disease-specific survival (P = .993), disease-free survival (P = .404), and metastasis-free survival (P = .384). Age, gender, and clinical T stage were predictive of disease recurrence in both users and nonusers (P < .5), whereas clinical N stage, treatment modality, tumor subsite, tobacco use, and tobacco dose were not considered to be predictive in these groups (P > .5).

Although this study did not observe any adverse events in patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, the authors suggested that future studies with larger sample sizes should be performed to validate their findings.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.


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