HPV status and overall survival of patients with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma--a retrospective study of a German head and neck cancer center

Anticancer Res. 2013 Aug;33(8):3481-5.


Background/aim: A change in epidemiology of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has been noticed: while overall incidence has decreased, the incidence of oropharyngeal SCC (OSCC) has been increasing over the past decades. A growing body of evidence suggests a causative role of the human papillomavirus (HPV) as an independent risk factor in development of OSCC. The aim of this study was to determine the HPV status in all OSCC specimens collected in our biological database since 1988, correlating the results with overall survival, and to compare them with the current literature data.

Patients and methods: A total of 104 tumor samples were obtained and included in this study. Patient records were reviewed. HPV status was determined by a two-step polymerase chain reaction (PCR) combined with p16 immunohistochemistry. Statistical analysis was performed with BiAS™.

Results: Overall 12 (12%) of the 104 tumor samples were HPV-positive. Most of the patients had advanced disease [(UICC) stage III or IV)]: 91.7 % in the HPV-positive group versus 78.2% in the HPV-negative group. Multivariate analysis showed that HPV status (p=0.04), UICC stage (p=0.01) and age at initial diagnosis (p=0.0006) were all independent determinants of overall survival. A positive HPV status (hazard ratio=0.52; 95%) was associated with a 48% increase of overall survival compared to patients with HPV-negative tumors.

Conclusion: Our findings confirm a prevalence of HPV-positive tumors within OSCC. Due to its epidemiologic and prognostic relevance, HPV status should be considered an important part of tumor staging. For this purpose, HPV detection via two-step PCR combined with p16 immunohistochemistry seems reliable.

Keywords: HPV; oral cancer; tumor sample screening.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Papillomaviridae / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies