HPV and p16 in head and neck cancer

  • Ahmad Tarmidi Sailan

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    There is some evidence to suggest that human papilloma virus (HPV) may play a causal role in head and neck carcinoma (HNSCC). The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of HPV DNA in HNSCC and to determine whether any correlation exists with p16 or survival. An initial pilot study of sixty formalin-fixed HNSCC was carried out in order to optimise the methodology for the PCR and immunohistochemistry. A further 84 benign lesions, 12 dysplasias and additional 80 HNSCC were also included. In the pilot study the prevalence of all HPV types was 67% of which 18% were high risk-HPV (HR-HPV) and for the combined carcinoma sample it was 59% of which 25% were HR-HPV. The overall HPV prevalence was 51% and 42% for benign lesions and dysplasias with HR-HPV accounting for 14% and 8% respectively. A total of four alpha HPV types were identified and eleven beta HPV types. Multiple HPV types co-existed in the same tissue and in some cases both alpha and beta HPV. The results may suggest that HR-HPV may play a role in a small subset of HNSCC. An association was found between HPV status and gender, age group, survival, nodal metastasis and T3 tumour size and smoking. HPV16 was predominantly present in female patients and was associated with an improved overall survival and recurrence free survival. p16 positivity varied from 76-78% in carcinomas, 51% in benign lesions and 66% in dysplasias. p16 status was not associated with disease recurrence or nodal metastasis. Positive p16 staining and high staining intensity was associated with a poorer overall survival and the male gender, an older age group, anatomic site, and T2 tumour size. Overall HPV status was not correlated with p16 expression but a correlation found between p16 and HPV16 may suggest that p16 could potentially act as a surrogate marker of HPV16. However, the lack of concordance would suggest that in isolation p16 may not be a reliable marker for HR-HPV and should not be relied upon in isolation. Our findings could suggest that HPV16 and p16 status may be independent predictors for prognosis and disease recurrence.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsAnonymous Trust, British Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons & The TC White Fund of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow
    SupervisorMichaelina Macluskey (Supervisor), John Gibson (Supervisor) & Peter Mossey (Supervisor)


    • Human papillomavirus
    • p16
    • Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC)
    • Genotyping
    • Immunohistochemistry
    • Prognostic

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