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Assessment of HPV DNA alone insufficient to identify HPV-driven head and neck cancers
Date:9/18/2012

PHILADELPHIA Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA positivity alone, particularly when assessed using polymerase chain reaction methods, is a poor biomarker for HPV-driven head and neck cancers, according to two studies published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. These studies identified alternative potential markers including viral load, viral gene expression and the evaluation of HPV DNA in combination with certain HPV assays.

Prior research has established that HPV is a cause of some head and neck cancers, including oropharyngeal cancer, and that patients with HPV-associated disease tend to have a better clinical outcome. Consequently, the proper assessment of the clinical status of individual tumors has become a goal of clinicians treating this disease because HPV at the tumor site does not indicate causal involvement in the cancer.

In the first study, Dana Holzinger, Ph.D., of the division of genome modifications and carcinogenesis at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues analyzed the potential of direct and indirect HPV markers to identify patients with HPV-driven tumors.

They analyzed 199 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma specimens for HPV DNA, viral load, RNA expression patterns seen in cervical carcinomas and the p16 protein, which is associated with tumor suppression.

Results indicated that the cervical cancer RNA expression pattern and viral load were associated with the lowest risk for death from oropharyngeal cancer. In contrast, a weaker association was found for samples that were HPV DNA-positive or that expressed the p16 protein.

"We showed that high viral load and a cancer-specific pattern of viral gene expression are most suited to identify patients with HPV-driven tumors among patients with oropharyngeal cancer," Holzinger said. "Viral expression pattern is a completely new marker in this field and viral load ha
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Contact: Jeremy Moore
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org
215-446-7109
American Association for Cancer Research
Source:Eurekalert

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