HPV-induced oropharyngeal cancer, immune response and response to therapy

Cancer Lett. 2010 Feb 28;288(2):149-55. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2009.06.026. Epub 2009 Jul 22.


Approximately 25% of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) worldwide are associated with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV). HPV-positive HNSCCs have a more favorable outcome and greater response to therapy. While chronic HPV infection allows for the evolution of immune evasion mechanisms, viral antigens can still elicit an immune response. Moreover, a robust lymphocytic response is associated with better prognosis in a variety of tumor types including head and neck cancer. This article outlines several mechanisms whereby the observed improved response of HPV-positive tumors to radiotherapy may be related to enhancement of the immune response following radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Papillomaviridae / immunology*
  • Papillomaviridae / pathogenicity
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic