Presence and influence of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in Tonsillar cancer

Adv Cancer Res. 2005:93:59-89. doi: 10.1016/S0065-230X(05)93002-9.


Tonsillar cancer is the most common of the oropharyngeal carcinomas and human papillomavirus (HPV) has been found to be present in approximately half of all cases. Patients with HPV-positive tonsillar cancer have been observed to have a better clinical outcome than patients with HPV-negative tonsillar cancer. Moreover, patients with tonsillar cancer and a high viral load have been shown to have a better clinical outcome, including increased survival, compared to patients with a lower HPV load in their tumors. Recent findings show that HPV-positive tumors are not more radiosensitive and do not have fewer chromosomal aberrations than HPV-negative tumors, although some chromosomal differences may exist between HPV-positive and -negative tonsillar tumors. Current experimental and clinical data indicate that an active antiviral cellular immune response may contribute to this better clinical outcome. These data are also in line with the findings that the frequency of tonsillar cancer is increased in patients with an impaired cellular immune system. Thus, therapeutic and preventive HPV-16 antiviral immune vaccination trials may be worthwhile, not only in cervical cancer, but also in tonsillar cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / immunology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Tonsillar Neoplasms / immunology
  • Tonsillar Neoplasms / virology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / immunology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*