The Human Immune System Basics
In a time of a Covid pandemic, and the rapid development of several life-saving vaccines to address it, the world has seen the possibilities that vaccines offer. But none of this has come without something unexpected given the hundreds of thousands who have died; vaccine hesitancy. One of the primary drivers for the last 20+ years of oropharyngeal cancers has been a virus, HPV. In 2006 a vaccine was made available in the market that will prevent HPV infections in the future generation that gets vaccinated now as children. Here in our head and neck/oral cancer world, there was also a huge opportunity, marred by some vocal anti-vaccine voices that have held back, through disinformation, the full potential of this cancer-preventing technology. OCF decided that we needed not just to argue with those in opposition to all vaccines, but to educate people with solid, science-based information so that they would feel more secure protecting their children while the pre-exposure window existed to use the vaccine. This task means that first, we have to ensure that individuals have a working understanding of the immune system itself, second that they understand how it protects us from various threats, and third what we can do to educate the immune system about threats it needs to recognize and protect us, pre-infection….ie through the use of a vaccine. Hesitancy or uncertainty about vaccination can only be eliminated through a thorough understanding of it, not arguing against people who want to fight through the use of disinformation campaigns and lies. Armed with facts, the decision to be vaccinated is much easier.
This first of three podcasts will give the listener a sound understanding of how our immune system works, how it defines what is a threat, and what components of it are put into action to protect us. To do this well we have enlisted the help of OCF’s long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Ross Kerr from NYU to act as the OCF moderator for this episode, and he has chosen Dr. David Levy as his well-versed and informed partner in the discussion. Dr. Levy has been working in the area of immune system research for decades. It is a privilege to have both of these distinguished doctors on this podcast. We would like to mention that this podcast was produced by the Oral Cancer Foundation in partnership with our long-term partner in many endeavors, The American Academy of Oral Medicine.
Dr. David Levy
PROFESSOR OF PATHOLOGY AND MICROBIOLOGY
Dr. Louis A Schneider Professorship in Molecular Pathology
Director, Molecular Oncology and Tumor Immunology Training Program
Faculty Liaison Director, Advanced Research Technologies
Department of Pathology
New York University School of Medicine
Cancer doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. With the first phase of our First National Virtual Fundraising event drawing to a close, we wanted to shout out and feature the top 3 fundraisers who have been a powerhouse during this event. All 3 have raised over $1000 for OCF and have been a huge encouragement for those who would also like to do good.
Nick Kuehl – Nick is a Squamous Cell Carcinoma Survivor and is approaching his two-year anniversary of being diagnosed. To quote Nick, “My journey is not more special or unique than anyone else. We all have our own challenges to overcome. We all know someone who has, is, or will battle cancer in their life.”
Claire Pettingale – Claire walks for her sister Catherine Hackett. Cathy’s specific cause for her oral cancer was one that has not yet been identified. With the impact of COVID-19, those with preexisting health conditions have gone unseen, as the pandemic has taken priority. She wants to bring awareness that everyone is affected by the pandemic, and cancer patients should not be left behind. Claire has been a beacon of light in these uncertain times, and both sisters are amazing and encouraging women.
Robert Logan – What can we say about Robert except he is a true champion. Robert has been battling HPV16+ cancer for three years, had six tumors, completed chemotherapy and radiation treatments, only for cancer to come back. He has been enrolled in phase 2 clinical trial with Immunotherapy and targeted chemotherapy, and his cancer has been stable for 15 months! Robert has been participating in the Fundraiser every day, and frequently updates his social media with his progress, sharing inspiring photos of himself throughout the month.
As a successful entrepreneur and international, award-winning speaker, Jo-Anne has a career that has spanned over four decades as a dental hygienist with the last 20 years dedicated to education and speaking. Jo-Anne has been selected as one of DPR’s Top 25 Women in Dentistry and joins the 2020 Dentistry Today CE Leaders for the 10th consecutive year.
In the midst of preparing to present her extensive research on HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer to her national association, Jo-Anne’s family were dealt a crushing blow of having a family member diagnosed with late-stage HPV-positive tonsillar cancer. Jo-Anne proudly partners with the Oral Cancer Foundation in conveying the urgent need for changing the way in which we screen for oral cancer to meet the needs of today’s population. Her frank and open style of lecturing complemented by the provision of clinical resources has earned many loyal followers.
As a successful entrepreneur and international, award-winning speaker, Jo-Anne has a career that has spanned over four decades as a dental hygienist with the last 20 years dedicated to education and speaking. Jo-Anne has been selected as one of DPR’s Top 25 Women in Dentistry and joins the 2020 Dentistry Today CE Leaders for the 10th consecutive year. In the midst of preparing to present her extensive research on HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer to her national association, Jo-Anne’s family was dealt a crushing blow of having a family member diagnosed with late-stage HPV-positive tonsillar cancer. Jo-Anne proudly partners with the Oral Cancer Foundation in conveying the urgent need for changing the way in which we screen for oral cancer to meet the needs of today’s population. Her frank and open style of lecturing complemented by the provision of clinical resources has earned many loyal followers
We all hope that we never lose a loved one to oral cancer, but too often it happens. Sometimes there are a series of events that conspire to delay discovery and diagnosis, allowing cancer to become much more invasive and difficult to cure. Even if that is possible, the morbidity associated with what are by any definition difficult treatments can be substantial. In this podcast, we diverge from our science-based informational format to speak with someone who has suffered that loss, oral cancer activist Rebecca Bencal who lost her twin sister Venessa to the disease. While this conversation goes through some of the issues related to treatments, there is a bigger takeaway in it. Learn what fueled her passion to speak about oral cancer, and why early discovery is so important. Understand why in today’s environment, when oral cancer screening is still not a national policy, or a part of examinations in every dental office, being your own advocate, being informed about risk factors and early signs and symptoms is paramount. This is a story of loss. It is also a conversation about what we can do to make this situation better in America.
Dr. Fakhry is a professor of Otolaryngology, head and neck surgeon, and a multi peer-reviewed published researcher in numerous high profile cancer journals, on staff at Johns Hopkins, and joins us to talk about the HPV virus and oropharyngeal cancer. This is not a typical academic/science discussion. The OCF staff asked the Dr. to specifically address questions that we get over our phone lines from both the public and patients as a matter of routine. The discussion ranges from subjects as diverse as unknown primary cancers, and the evolution of that term over the last decade, to HPV vaccine questions, and includes bits on transfer mechanisms – debunking some methods misunderstood by many. The numbers of Americans infected and currently oral positive for HPV, how we know that number, and the relative risk of that infection cascading into a malignancy is another topic. What are the risks for a couple in which one partner is an HPV+ oral cancer patient? Get interesting answers here.
Topics discussed; What is oral medicine? Osteoradionecrosis from definition to causes and treatments. Which lesions are worthy of referral and biopsy; defining the dangers from the less worrisome oral abnormalities. The many-step referral process in dentistry – from RDH to oral pathologist, defining the best path for your patients and your practice.