Background: Human papillomaviruses (HPV) have been implicated strongly in the pathogenesis of human squamous cell carcinomas, especially of anogenital carcinomas. Some pathologic changes of the esophagus may be one of the candidates for HPV etiology, but the role of HPV infections in the carcinogenesis of the esophagus remains to be clarified.
Methods: To elucidate the association of HPV with carcinogenesis of the esophagus, 45 biopsy samples of esophageal squamous cell carcinomas were examined for the presence of HPV DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Primers for PCR were (1) consensus primers (CP) for the simultaneous amplification of the E6-E7 regions of cancer-associated HPV types (HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 52b, and 58), which have been shown to have transforming activities; (2) type-specific primers (SP16, SP18) for the E7 regions of HPV 16 and HPV 18, respectively; and (3) general primers (GP) for the simultaneous amplification of the L1 regions of HPV 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, and 33.
Results: PCR using CP first was done for screening and showed that 3 (6.7%) of 45 specimens contained HPV 16 or HPV 18 DNA, the oncogenic high-risk HPV types. This was confirmed by SP16 and SP18 PCR. However, no HPV DNA was detected by PCR using GP. These results suggested that the HPV DNA detected might be integrated into the cell genome with their transforming genes retained and their late regions deleted.
Conclusions: Most oncogenic types of HPV (HPV 16 and HPV 18) were detected by PCR in carcinomas of the esophagus. Thus, HPV might play a role, although at a low frequency, in carcinogenesis of the esophagus.