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Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Jun;138(6):556-61. doi: 10.1001/archoto.2012.950.

p16 not a prognostic marker for hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.

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  • 1Departments of Radiation Oncology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.



To investigate the prognostic significance of p16 in patients with hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HPSCC) and to evaluate the relationship between p16 and human papillomavirus (HPV). Unlike in oropharyngeal SCC (OPSCC), the prognostic significance of p16 in HPSCC and its association with HPV is unclear.


Retrospective medical chart review.


University tertiary referral center.


A total of 27 patients with HPSCC treated with definitive radiation therapy between 2002 and 2011 whose tissue was available for immunohistochemical analysis.


Twenty-two patients were treated with chemoradiation, and 5 with radiation alone. All tumor biopsy specimens were analyzed for p16 and, when sufficient tissue was available, for HPV DNA.


Overall survival (OS), locoregional control (LRC), disease-free survival (DFS), and laryngoesophageal dysfunction-free survival (LEDFS) were analyzed according to p16 status.


Findings for p16 were positive in 9 tumors and negative in 18 tumors. Median follow-up was 29.3 months. There was no significant difference in OS, LRC, DFS, or LEDFS for patients with p16-positive vs p16-negative tumors. Only 1 of the 19 tumors tested for HPV was found to be HPV positive. When used as a test for HPV, p16 had a positive predictive value of 17%.


In contrast to OPSCC, p16 expression in patients with HPSCC had a low positive predictive value for HPV and did not predict improved OS, LRC, DFS, or LEDFS. Thus, for HPSCC, p16 is not a prognostic biomarker. Caution must be taken when extrapolating the prognostic significance of p16 in patients with OPSCC to patients with head and neck SCC of other subsites.

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