Factors associated with HPV16 status and survival among patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx

Kristina Riis Dahlstrom, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background: Squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx (SCCOP) is characterized by local tumor aggressiveness, high recurrence rates, a high incidence of second primary tumors, and medical comorbidities. Significant trends in demographic and clinical characteristics as well as survival among SCCOP patients have been observed over time, likely owing to the changing etiology of the disease. Human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) infection is associated with a significant proportion of these cancers. Biomarkers that may aid in identifying patients that are at higher risk of recurrence and death are important so that these patients may be followed more closely to improve their quality of life. Study population and methods: The retrospective review (Specific Aim 2) included 3891 newly diagnosed, previously untreated patients presenting to our institution between 1955 and 2004. A total of 2299 patients treated at our institution were included in survival and recursive partitioning analysis. The prospective cohort study (Specific Aim 3) included 266 patients presenting to our institution between January 2006 and September 2009. Results: The results from the retrospective review showed that over time, patients presented at younger ages and were more likely to have base of tongue/tonsil tumors and to be never/former smokers and moreover survival improved significantly over time. In survival and recursive partitioning analyses, the TNM staging system was efficient in prognosticating patients prior to 1995. However, in the recent decade, the TNM staging system was completely inadequate. The factors having the greatest positive effect on overall survival since 1995 were those common to HPV-associated SCCOP. The results from the prospective cohort study indicate that patients with high nodal stage and those with late stage disease have increased levels of pretreatment serum HPV DNA. Conclusions: We saw a distinct improvement in survival among SCCOP patients over the past 50 years at our institution. The main factors contributing to this were changes in clinical characteristics, in particular surrogates for HPV status. The current TNM staging system for SCCOP is inadequate and incorporation of HPV status (and perhaps smoking status) is encouraged. Furthermore, although pretreatment circulating levels of HPV DNA was associated with higher N category and overall disease stage, it has limited utility as a marker for recurrence among SCCOP patients.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Dahlstrom, Kristina Riis, "Factors associated with HPV16 status and survival among patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3550606.