Clinical Validation of Human Papilloma Virus Circulating Tumor DNA for Early Detection of Residual Disease After Chemoradiation in Cervical Cancer

J Clin Oncol. 2024 Feb 1;42(4):431-440. doi: 10.1200/JCO.23.00954. Epub 2023 Nov 16.


Purpose: Most cervical cancers are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), and HPV circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) may identify patients at highest risk of relapse. Our pilot study using digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) showed that detectable HPV ctDNA at the end of chemoradiation (CRT) is associated with inferior progression-free survival (PFS) and that a next-generation sequencing approach (HPV-seq) may outperform dPCR. We aimed to prospectively validate HPV ctDNA as a tool for early detection of residual disease.

Methods: This prospective, multicenter validation study accrued patients with stage IB-IVA cervical cancer treated with CRT between 2017 and 2022. Participants underwent phlebotomy at baseline, end of CRT, 4-6 weeks post-CRT, and 3 months post-CRT for HPV ctDNA levels. Plasma HPV genotype-specific DNA levels were quantified using both dPCR and HPV-seq. The primary end point was 2-year PFS.

Results: With a median follow-up of 2.2 (range, 0.5-5.5) years, there were 24 PFS events among the 70 patients with HPV+ cervical cancer. Patients with detectable HPV ctDNA on dPCR at the end of CRT, 4-6 weeks post-CRT, and 3 months post-CRT had significantly worse 2-year PFS compared with those with undetectable HPV ctDNA (77% v 51%, P = .03; 82% v 15%, P < .001; and 82% v 24%, P < .001, respectively); the median lead time to recurrence was 5.9 months. HPV-seq showed similar results as dPCR. On multivariable analyses, detectable HPV ctDNA on dPCR and HPV-seq remained independently associated with inferior PFS.

Conclusion: Persistent HPV ctDNA after CRT is independently associated with inferior PFS. HPV ctDNA testing can identify, as early as at the end of CRT, patients at high risk of recurrence for future treatment intensification trials.

Trial registration: NCT03853915 NCT03702309.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Circulating Tumor DNA* / genetics
  • Female
  • Human Papillomavirus Viruses
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / diagnosis
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms* / therapy


  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • Biomarkers, Tumor

Associated data