HPV Status of Head/Neck Tumors May Affect Treatment Success

Better treatment response and prognosis seen in those with human papillomavirus-positive tumors

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma respond better to treatment and have a better prognosis than those with HPV-negative tumors, according to study findings published in the Feb. 20 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Carole Fakhry, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a study of 96 patients with stage III or IV head and neck squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx or larynx. The subjects were participants in a phase II chemotherapy trial and received two cycles of induction chemotherapy with intravenous paclitaxel and carboplatin plus weekly paclitaxel and radiation therapy.

In all, 40 percent of the subjects tested positive for HPV types 16, 33 or 35 within tumor cell nuclei, and this sub-set had an 82 percent response to induction chemotherapy compared with 55 percent for the subjects with tumors that did not test positive for HPV. The response rate for chemoradiation treatment was 84 percent for the HPV group versus 57 percent for the rest, and the former had a 95 percent chance of two-year overall survival versus 62 percent for the latter.

"Tumor HPV status or an appropriate clinical surrogate (e.g., p16 immunohistochemistry) should now be included as a stratification factor for clinical trials that include oropharyngeal cancer patients," the authors conclude.

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