Polymerase chain reaction detection of HPV in squamous carcinoma of the oropharynx

Am J Clin Pathol. 2010 Jul;134(1):36-41. doi: 10.1309/AJCP1AAWXE5JJCLZ.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing is routinely performed on oropharyngeal carcinomas. We compared the Access Genetics (Minneapolis, MN) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay (AGPCR), DNA-DNA in situ hybridization (ISH; Ventana, Tucson, AZ), and HPV-16 E7 PCR amplification in consecutively accessioned oropharyngeal cancers. We tested 126 cases by both PCR methods; 102 were positive by either for a maximum positive rate (MPR) of 81.0%. Relative to the MPR, the sensitivities of AGPCR and E7 PCR were 90.2% and 72.5%, respectively. Of 17 AGPCR+ cases tested by ISH, 14/14 unequivocally positive/negative were concordant. All cases (97/97) positive by either PCR assay were positive for p16. There was no relationship between level of histologic differentiation and HPV status. ISH and AGPCR have comparable performance for the detection of HPV in oropharyngeal carcinomas. PCR is a suitable and economical assay that is comparable to ISH in sensitivity and may provide logistical advantages relative to ISH for assessing HPV status in oropharyngeal malignancies. However, it is imperative that appropriate sensitivity controls be in place for such assays.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Oropharynx / pathology
  • Oropharynx / virology*
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / economics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CDKN2A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA, Viral
  • Neoplasm Proteins