Background: Pap cytology is known to be more specific but less sensitive than testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) for the detection of high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN2+). We assessed whether p16/Ki-67 dual-stained cytology, a biomarker combination indicative of transforming HPV infections, can provide high sensitivity for CIN2+ in screening while maintaining high specificity. Results were compared with Pap cytology and HPV testing.
Methods: A total of 27,349 women 18 years or older attending routine cervical cancer screening were prospectively enrolled in five European countries. Pap cytology, p16/Ki-67 immunostaining, and HPV testing were performed on all women. Positive test results triggered colposcopy referral, except for women younger than 30 years with only positive HPV test results. Presence of CIN2+ on adjudicated histology was used as the reference standard. Two-sided bias-corrected McNemar P values were determined.
Results: The p16/Ki-67 dual-stained cytology positivity rates were comparable with the prevalence of abnormal Pap cytology results and less than 50% of the positivity rates observed for HPV testing. In women of all ages, dual-stained cytology was more sensitive than Pap cytology (86.7% vs 68.5%; P < .001) for detecting CIN2+, with comparable specificity (95.2% vs 95.4%; P = .15). The relative performance of the tests was similar in both groups of women: younger than age 30 and 30 years or older. HPV testing in women 30 years or older was more sensitive than dual-stained cytology (93.3% vs 84.7%; P = .03) but less specific (93.0% vs 96.2%; P < .001).
Conclusions: The p16/Ki-67 dual-stained cytology combines superior sensitivity and noninferior specificity over Pap cytology for detecting CIN2+. It suggests a potential role of dual-stained cytology in screening, especially in younger women where HPV testing has its limitations.