Prevalence and impact on clinicopathological characteristics of human papillomavirus-16 DNA in cervical lymph node metastases of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma




Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a basic risk factor for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Little knowledge exists about the impact of HPV on clinical diagnostic and therapy of patients with HNSCC.


We evaluated the evidence of HPV16 in 131 retrospectively collected HNSCC and associated cervical lymph node metastases by HPV16 real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and p16 immunohistochemistry and its impact on clinicopathological characteristics.


HPV16-DNA and p16 overexpression were present in 27% of HNSCCs. All cervical lymph node metastases of HPV16-positive HNSCC showed HPV16-DNA. HPV16 was strongly associated with tumors arising from the oropharyngeal site (p < .000001), favorable outcome after standard therapy in univariate (p = .001) and multivariate (p = .0004) analysis, and cervical lymph node metastases before primary detection.


HPV16-diagnostic in cervical lymph node metastases can predict the site of tumor origin in case of carcinoma of unknown primary (CUP) and favorable outcome and should, therefore, be included in routine diagnostic workup. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2011