Human papillomaviruses in head and neck cancer: 8 year-survival-analysis of 73 patients

Cancer Lett. 2005 Feb 10;218(2):199-206. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2004.09.027.


Depending on the primary tumour's anatomical location, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) shows HPV prevalences between 20 and 30% for oro-, hypopharyngeal as well as laryngeal SCC and up to over 50% for SCC of the Waldeyer's tonsillar ring. There is persistent controversy on the role of HPV infection in HNSCC-progression, and on the influence of these infections on the final clinical outcome. To evaluate the possible relevance of HPV infection on survival and prognosis, 73 patients with HNSCC were investigated statistically with a median follow-up time of 28 (0.3-94) months. The statistical analysis revealed no differences in the overall survival of HPV-positive and HPV-negative cancer patients. A correlation between decreased survival and increased lymph node status was expected. Patients with carcinomas of the Waldeyer's tonsillar ring with a high HPV prevalence rate as compared to tumours of other anatomical locations revealed a better survival. Moreover, an association between HPV positivity and higher lymph node status at time of first diagnosis, and a better survival of HPV-positive patients compared to HPV-negative patients given the same initial nodal status (N0 vs. N1-N2b vs. N2c-N3) could be demonstrated. The influence of HPV on the patient's survival can only be observed statistically in combination with other prognostic factors, as the lymph nodal status of the patients. The better prognosis of survival of HPV-positive vs. the HPV-negative patients with lymph node neck metastasis is attributable to a better response of the HPV-positive group to therapy, especially radiotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*