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Head Neck. 2013 Nov;35(11):1652-6. doi: 10.1002/hed.23209. Epub 2013 Jan 17.

Definitive radiation therapy without chemotherapy for human papillomavirus-positive head and neck cancer.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, California.



To report a single institutional experience with definitive radiation therapy alone for human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck cancer.


A total of 67 patients were treated by radiation therapy alone to a median dose of 70 Gy (range, 66-72 Gy) for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed pretreatment tumor tissues were used to establish HPV-positivity using standardized techniques of immunohistochemistry for p16 and polymerase chain reaction for HPV.


In all, 23 patients with HPV-positive cancers were identified. With a median follow-up of 28 months (range, 6-85 months), the 3-year actuarial rates of overall survival, locoregional control, and distant metastasis-free survival were 83%, 90%, and 88%, respectively.


These findings attest to the exquisite radiosensitivity of HPV-positive head and neck cancer. The clinical outcomes observed from this selected series compare favorably with historical controls treated by more intensive chemoradiotherapy strategies.

Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


head and neck cancer; human papillomavirus; radiation therapy; radiosensitivity; squamous cell carcinoma

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