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Hum Pathol. 2004 Dec;35(12):1477-83.

p16INK4A expression as biomarker for HPV 16-related vulvar neoplasias.

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  • 1Institut für Tumorbiologie, Universitätsklinikum Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.


Up-regulation of p16INK4A is associated with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) in preinvasive and invasive cervical neoplasia. However, its expression in vulvar carcinomas, which have a diverse pathogenesis, has not been extensively studied. One hundred seventy-seven vulvar intraepithelial neoplasms (VIN), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), and benign squamous epithelia were analyzed for p16 expression. RNA/RNA in situ hybridization was used to detect HPV 16 E6/E7 transcripts in 112. Ninety-five percent of VIN 3 and basaloid or warty SCCs (76/80) and 4% of keratinizing SCC (2/48) were moderately to strongly immunopositive for p16, which localized to nucleus and cytoplasm; 52/58 analyzed (90%) contained HPV 16 transcripts. The positive predictive value (PPV) of moderate to strong diffuse p16 immunostaining and HPV positivity for the diagnosis of VIN 3 and of basaloid or warty SCC was 97% and 95%, respectively. Conversely, 94% of keratinizing SCC contained heterogeneous staining, and when present, it was strictly cytoplasmic and frequently localized to the cells at the epithelial-stromal interface. Benign squamous epithelia were p16 negative, with the exception of lichen sclerosus, which contained focal and heterogeneously p16 positive in 42%. As in the cervix, intense diffuse p16 expression supports an HPV-related neoplastic process in vulvar neoplasia, irrespective of the level of differentiation. Up-regulation of p16 at the epithelial-stromal interface in HPV negative keratinizing SCCs is consistent with an HPV-independent response to alterations associated with invasion. These disparate patterns of p16 expression underscore 2 different mechanisms for p16 expression in HPV-related and HPV-unrelated vulvar carcinomas.

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