High-risk human papilloma virus (HR-HPV) has increasingly been associated with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), in particular oropharyngeal cancers. Ezrin-Radixin-Moesin Binding Phosphoprotein 50 (EBP50), a putative tumour suppressor, localises to the plasma membrane in suprabasal epithelium and to the cytoplasm in proliferative basal layers, and is a target for degradation by the HR-HPV E6 oncoprotein. The aim of this study was to investigate EBP50 protein expression patterns in HNSCC in a large Scottish cohort to determine if there was a correlation with HPV status and clinical outcomes. EBP50 expression patterns were assessed in 156 HNSCC including oropharyngeal (37.8%), laryngeal (24%), oral (19%) and other sites (18.5%), which were genotyped for presence of HR-HPV. HNSCC were generally negative for membranous EBP50. EBP50 expression was either cytoplasmic/absent, being 'predominantly cytoplasmic' in 76 (49%), 'weak/negligible cytoplasmic' in 44 (28%), 'strongly cytoplasmic' in 5 (3%), 'heterogeneous' in 26 (17%) and 'other' in 5 (3%) samples. Forty tumours (25%) were positive for HPV DNA, predominantly HR-HPV 16, and 44 (28%) were p16 positive. The majority of tumours (71%) with 'weak/negligible cytoplasmic' EBP50 expression originated in the oropharynx were more likely to have positive neck nodes, overexpression of p16 and positive tumour HR-HPV status (P < 0.001). Differences in EBP50 levels between oropharyngeal and non-oropharyngeal tumours may be linked to degradation of EBP50 by HR-HPV, and loss of EBP50 may therefore be a surrogate biomarker for HR-HPV infection in oropharyngeal tumours.
- Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
- Human papilloma virus
- Oropharyngeal cancers