Although human papillomavirus (HPV-16) is not thought to cause cancer by itself, it appears to contribute to the development of tonsil cancer in many patients. It is likely that treatment for many patients with tonsil cancer could be improved if effective therapy to control HPV-16 is developed.
The investigators in this study want to learn if the drug ribavirin is active against HPV-16. Ribavirin is a pill approved as part of the standard treatment for hepatitis C. Laboratory studies suggest that ribavirin might also be useful in the treatment of head and neck cancers, but it has not yet been evaluated in these patients.
The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of ribavirin on tonsil squamous cell cancer when it is given before surgery. Researchers want to see if ribavirin changes the expression of certain proteins related to HPV infection in the tumor. They will also determine if ribavirin changes how the tumor appears on a PET/CT scan (positron emission tomography/computed tomography scan).