Biological basis for increased sensitivity to radiation therapy in HPV-positive head and neck cancers

Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:696028. doi: 10.1155/2014/696028. Epub 2014 Apr 3.

Abstract

Although development of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) is commonly linked to the consumption of tobacco and alcohol, a link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and a subgroup of head and neck cancers has been established. These HPV-positive tumors represent a distinct biological entity with overexpression of viral oncoproteins E6 and E7. It has been shown in several clinical studies that HPV-positive HNSCCs have a more favorable outcome and greater response to radiotherapy. The reason for improved prognosis of HPV-related HNSCC remains speculative, but it could be owned to multiple factors. One hypothesis is that HPV-positive cells are intrinsically more sensitive to standard therapies and thus respond better to treatment. Another possibility is that HPV-positive tumors uniquely express viral proteins that induce an immune response during therapy that helps clear tumors and prevents recurrence. Here, we will review current evidence for the biological basis of increased radiosensitivity in HPV-positive HNSCC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / biosynthesis*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / metabolism
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics*
  • Papillomaviridae / metabolism
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / therapy
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Radiation Tolerance / genetics
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck

Substances

  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral