Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) often present with metastatic disease. The diagnosis of metastatic lesions usually is determined by fine-needle aspiration. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is now being considered as a causative agent in a subset of HNSCC. The objectives of this study were, first; to search for the presence of HPV DNA by in situ hybridization (ISH) in metastatic lesions from HNSCC using alcohol-fixed, archival, cytopathologic material; second, to characterize the cytologic features of HPV-positive metastatic lesions of HNSCC; and, third, to determine whether there is a correlation between the presence of HPV DNA and the origin of metastatic lesions.
The authors performed chromogenic ISH analysis for HPV DNA on fine-needle aspiration materials from metastatic lesions from 26 patients with HNSCC. Along with the ISH analysis, a detailed cytologic review was performed, and cytopathologic features were recorded. The HPV DNA status in metastatic lesion was correlated with cytopathologic features and primary tumor location.
The integration of HPV DNA was visualized microscopically on tumor cell nuclei in 15% of aspirates. The anatomic locations of the study samples were as follows: 16 lymph node aspirates (11 cervical lymph nodes and 5 lymph nodes at other sites other), 5 tracheostomy sites, and 5 miscellaneous sites located on the head and neck area. Cytologic review revealed 13 keratinized and 13 nonkeratinized metastatic tumors. HPV DNA was detected in four metastatic sites (three lymph nodes and one tracheostomy site). All HPV DNA-positive tumors were of the nonkeratinizing type (P < 0.05; Fisher exact test). The origins of HPV-positive tumors included two laryngeal sites, one nasopharyngeal site, and one oral cavity site.
The current findings showed that archival cytology slides can be used for HPV DNA detection with ISH. The results also showed that HPV DNA-containing HNSCC has distinctively nonkeratinizing cytologic features. The authors concluded that HPV DNA not only is involved in the initiation of tumoral processes but also plays an important role in the development of metastatic disease. Cancer (Cancer Cytopathol) 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.