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Detection and quantitation of human papillomavirus DNA in the plasma of patients with cervical carcinoma.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Head and Neck Cancer Research Division, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) play a central role in the development of cervical carcinoma. Plasma DNA from 232 patients taken at diagnosis or after treatment for invasive cervical cancer (n = 175) or carcinoma in situ (n = 57) and 60 normal controls were examined for HPV-16 or HPV-18 E7 DNA by conventional and real-time quantitative PCR assays. We found HPV-16 or HPV-18 E7 DNA in 6.9% (11 of 175) of invasive cervical cancer cases (18.1% of cases positive for HPV-16 or HPV-18 at the genital tract), 1.8% (1 of 57) of carcinoma in situ, and 1.7% (1 of 60) of normal controls by conventional PCR. Quantitative PCR identified the highest concentrations of HPV DNA (copy number of HPV/ml of plasma) in patients with invasive cervical cancer (mean, 11,163; median, 183.5), followed by a level of 8 in the single carcinoma in situ case and 0 copies in the normal control initially positive by conventional PCR. HPV DNA can be detected in the plasma of some patients with HPV-positive cervical tumors. It remains to be demonstrated whether quantitative PCR analysis of HPV DNA in plasma may have utility in patients at high risk of recurrent disease.

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