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, 30 (4), 549-562

Biological Relevance of Human Papillomaviruses in Vulvar Cancer


Biological Relevance of Human Papillomaviruses in Vulvar Cancer

Gordana Halec et al. Mod Pathol.


The carcinogenic role of high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) types in the increasing subset of vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia and vulvar cancer in young women has been established. However, the actual number of vulvar cancer cases attributed to HPV is still imprecisely defined. In an attempt to provide a more precise definition of HPV-driven vulvar cancer, we performed HPV-type-specific E6*I mRNA analyses available for 20 HR-/possible HR (pHR)-HPV types, on tissue samples from 447 cases of vulvar cancer. HPV DNA genotyping was performed using SPF10-LiPA25 assay due to its high sensitivity in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Data on p16INK4a expression was available for comparative analysis via kappa statistics. The use of highly sensitive assays covering the detection of HPV mRNA in a broad spectrum of mucosal HPV types resulted in the detection of viral transcripts in 87% of HPV DNA+ vulvar cancers. Overall concordance between HPV mRNA+ and p16INK4a upregulation (strong, diffuse immunostaining in >25% of tumor cells) was 92% (K=0.625, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.531-0.719). Among these cases, 83% were concordant pairs of HPV mRNA+ and p16INK4a+ and 9% were concordant pairs of HPV mRNA- and p16INK4a-. Our data confirm the biological role of HR-/pHR-HPV types in the great majority of HPV DNA+ vulvar cancers, resulting in an HPV-attributable fraction of at least 21% worldwide. Most HPV DNA+ vulvar cancers were associated with HPV16 (85%), but a causative role for other, less frequently occurring mucosal HPV types (HPV26, 66, 67, 68, 70 and 73) was also confirmed at the mRNA level for the first time. These findings should be taken into consideration for future screening options as HPV-associated vulvar preneoplastic lesions have increased in incidence in younger women and require different treatment than vulvar lesions that develop from rare autoimmune-related mechanisms in older women.

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