More than ever, clinicians need regularly updated reviews given the continuously increasing amount of new information regarding innovative cervical cancer prevention methods. A summary is given from recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews on 3 possible clinical applications of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing: triage of women with equivocal or low-grade cytologic abnormalities; prediction of the therapeutic outcome after treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) lesions, and last not but not least, primary screening for cervical cancer and pre-cancer. Consistent evidence is available indicating that HPV-triage with the Hybrid Capture(®) 2 assay (Qiagen Gaithersburg, Inc., MD, USA [previously Digene Corp.] (HC2) is more accurate (higher sensitivity, similar specificity) than repeat cytology to triage women with equivocal Pap smear results. Several other tests show at least similar accuracy but mRNA testing with the APTIMA(®) (Gen-Probe Inc., San Diego, CA, USA) test is similarly sensitive but more specific compared to HC2. In triage of low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL), HC2 is more sensitive but its specificity is substantially lower compared to repeat cytology. The APTIMA(®) test is more specific than HC2 without showing a loss in sensitivity. Identification of DNA of HPV types 16 and/or 18, or RNA from the five most carcinogenic HPV types allow selecting women at highest risk for CIN3+ but the sensitivity and negative predictive value of these markers are lower than full-range high-risk HPV (hrHPV) testing. After conservative treatment of cervical pre-cancer, HPV testing picks up more quickly, with higher sensitivity and not lower specificity, residual or recurrent high-grade CIN than follow-up cytology. Primary screening for hrHPV generally detects more CIN2, CIN3 or cancer compared to cytology at cut-off atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US) or LSIL, but is less specific. Combined HPV and cytology screening provides a further small gain in sensitivity at the expense of a considerable loss in specificity if positive by either test is referred to colposcopy, in comparison with HPV testing only. Randomised trials and follow-up of cohort studies consistently demonstrate a significantly lower cumulative incidence of CIN3+ and even of cancer, in women aged 30 years or older, who were at enrollment hrHPV DNA negative compared to those who were cytologically negative. The difference in cumulative risk of CIN3+ or cancer for double negative (cytology & HPV) versus only HPV-negative women is small. HC2, GP5+/6+ PCR (polymerase chain reaction), cobas(®) 4800 PCR (Roche Molecular Systems Inc., Alameda, CA, USA) and Real Time PCR (Abbott Molecular, Des Plaines, IL, USA) can be considered as clinically validated for use in primary screening. The loss in specificity associated with primary HPV-based screening can be compensated by appropriate algorithms involving reflex cytology and/or HPV genotyping for HPV16 or 18. There exists a substantial evidence base to support that HPV testing is advantageous both in triage of women with equivocal abnormal cytology, in surveillance after treatment of CIN lesions and in primary screening of women aged 30 years or older. However, the possible advantages offered by HPV-based screening require a well organised program with good compliance with screening and triage policies. This article forms part of a special supplement entitled "Comprehensive Control of HPV Infections and Related Diseases" Vaccine Volume 30, Supplement 5, 2012.
Copyright © 2012 Marc Arbyn. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.