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1.  Early-stage squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx: Radiotherapy vs. Trans-Oral Robotic Surgery (ORATOR) – study protocol for a randomized phase II trial 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:133.
The incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) has markedly increased over the last three decades due to newly found associations with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Primary radiotherapy (RT) is the treatment of choice for OPSCC at most centers, and over the last decade, the addition of concurrent chemotherapy has led to a significant improvement in survival, but at the cost of increased acute and late toxicity. Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) has emerged as a promising alternative treatment, with preliminary case series demonstrating encouraging oncologic, functional, and quality of life (QOL) outcomes. However, comparisons of TORS and RT in a non-randomized fashion are susceptible to bias. The goal of this randomized phase II study is to compare QOL, functional outcomes, toxicity profiles, and survival following primary RT (± chemotherapy) vs. TORS (± adjuvant [chemo] RT) in patients with OPSCC.
The target patient population comprises OPSCC patients who would be unlikely to require chemotherapy post-resection: Tumor stage T1-T2 with likely negative margins at surgery; Nodal stage N0-2, ≤3 cm in size, with no evidence of extranodal extension on imaging. Participants will be randomized in a 1:1 ratio between Arm 1 (RT ± chemotherapy) and Arm 2 (TORS ± adjuvant [chemo] RT). In Arm 1, patients with N0 disease will receive RT alone, whereas N1-2 patients will receive concurrent chemoradiation. In Arm 2, patients will undergo TORS along with selective neck dissections, which may be staged. Pathologic high-risk features will be used to determine the requirement for adjuvant radiotherapy +/- chemotherapy. The primary endpoint is QOL score using the M.D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory (MDADI), with secondary endpoints including survival, toxicity, other QOL outcomes, and swallowing function. A sample of 68 patients is required.
This study, if successful, will provide a much-needed randomized comparison of the conventional strategy of primary RT vs. the novel strategy of primary TORS. The trial is designed to provide a definitive QOL comparison between the two arms, and to inform the design of an eventual phase III trial for survival outcomes.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3621077  PMID: 23514246
Head and neck cancer; Oropharynx; Human papillomavirus; Radiotherapy; Transoral robotic surgery; Quality of life; Survival; Randomized controlled trial
2.  Does HPV type affect outcome in oropharyngeal cancer? 
An epidemic of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer (OPSCC) has been reported worldwide largely due to oral infection with HPV type-16, which is responsible for approximately 90% of HPV-positive cases. The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
A retrospective search identified ninety-five patients diagnosed with OPSCC. Pre-treatment biopsy specimens were tested for p16 expression using immunohistochemistry and for HPV-16, HPV-18 and other high-risk subtypes, including 31,33,35,39,45,51,52,56,58,59,67,68, by real-time qPCR.
Fifty-nine tumours (62%) were positive for p16 expression and fifty (53%) were positive for known high-risk HPV types. Of the latter, 45 tumors (90%) were identified as HPV-16 positive, and five tumors (10%) were positive for other high-risk HPV types (HPV-18 (2), HPV-67 (2), HPV-33 (1)). HPV status by qPCR and p16 expression were extremely tightly correlated (p < 0.001, Fishers exact test). Patients with HPV-positive tumors had improved 3-year overall (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) compared to patients with HPV-negative tumors (90% vs 65%, p = 0.001; and 85% vs 49%, p = 0.005; respectively). HPV-16 related OPSCC presented with cervical metastases more frequently than other high-risk HPV types (p = 0.005) and poorer disease-free survival was observed, although this was not statistically significant.
HPV-16 infection is responsible for a significant proportion of OPSCC in Southwestern Ontario. Other high-risk subtypes are responsible for a smaller subset of OPSCC that present less frequently with cervical metastases and may have a different prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3650940  PMID: 23663293
Human papillomavirus; Oropharyngeal cancer; Epidemiology
3.  Long-term Psychological and Occupational Effects of Providing Hospital Healthcare during SARS Outbreak 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2006;12(12):1924-1932.
TOC Summary Line: Healthcare workers in hospitals affected by SARS experience increased psychological stress 1–2 years after the outbreak.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) found the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to be stressful, but the long-term impact is not known. From 13 to 26 months after the SARS outbreak, 769 HCWs at 9 Toronto hospitals that treated SARS patients and 4 Hamilton hospitals that did not treat SARS patients completed a survey of several adverse outcomes. Toronto HCWs reported significantly higher levels of burnout (p = 0.019), psychological distress (p<0.001), and posttraumatic stress (p<0.001). Toronto workers were more likely to have reduced patient contact and work hours and to report behavioral consequences of stress. Variance in adverse outcomes was explained by a protective effect of the perceived adequacy of training and support and by a provocative effect of maladaptive coping style and other individual factors. The results reinforce the value of effective staff support and training in preparation for future outbreaks.
PMCID: PMC3291360  PMID: 17326946
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Stress, Psychological; Health Personnel; Stress, Traumatic; Burnout, Professional, research

Results 1-3 (3)