HPV patients at risk for head and neck cancer

A new meta-analysis presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Orlando, FL, confirmed the link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC).

Led by Farshid Dayyani, M.D., Ph.D., at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, researchers identified 40 clinical and translational studies between 1980 and 2008 that reported the prevalence of HPV in head and neck squamous cell cancers. The studies determined HPV status by serology and detected HPV DNA in tumor tissue by polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Of the 6,794 patients included in their study, the researchers found that 24.2% had HPV, and 86.8% of all HPV-positive tumors were positive for HPV16, the virus also associated with cervical cancer.

Overall, patients with HPV had an increased risk of HNSCC by 40%, and the risk for HNSCC among HPV16-positive patients was 4.47 times that of HPV16-negative patients.

The study provides further evidence supporting the role of HPV as an important causative agent in HNSCC, and supports HPV-positive HNSCC as a separate biologic entity that should be treated differently than HPV-negative cases, the researchers concluded.

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