The clinical impact of HPV tumor status upon head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

Oral Oncol. 2014 Jun;50(6):565-74. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2013.09.008. Epub 2013 Oct 14.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is etiologically responsible for a distinct subset of head and neck squamous cell cancers (HNSCCs). HPV-positive HNSCCs (HPV-HNSCCs) most commonly arise from the oropharynx and are responsible for the increasing incidence of oropharyngeal SCC (OSCC) in the United States (US) and abroad. HPV-positive OSCC (HPV-OSCC) has a unique demographic and risk factor profile and tumor biology. HPV-OSCC patients tend to be white, younger, and have a higher cumulative exposure to sexual behaviors as compared with HPV-negative OSCC patients. HPV-positive tumor status also significantly improves survival, and is indeed the single strongest prognostic factor for OSCC. The mechanisms that underlie the improved prognosis conferred by HPV-positive disease are unknown. The purpose of this review is to describe the clinical impact of HPV status in HNSCC, particularly in OSCC, both in terms of the unique clinic-demographic profile and prognostic implications.

Keywords: HPV; Head and neck cancer; Oropharyngeal neoplasms; Prognosis; Risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alphapapillomavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors