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J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Dec;23(4):561-6.

Presence of HPV in head and neck tumours: high prevalence in tonsillar localization.

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  • 1Laboratory of Virology, Regina Elena Cancer Institute, San Carlo, IDI IRCCS, Rome, Italy.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) seems to be involved in head and neck carcinogenesis. To investigate this association, viral presence and expression were analysed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods and correlated to tumour localization, clinical-pathological aspects, and alcohol and tobacco exposure in 65 patients. HPV DNA was found in 16 cases (24.6%); the HPV types detected were: HPV16 (10 cases), HPV 6 (3 cases) HPV 33, 35, and 58 (one case each). The tonsil was the location with the highest HPV positivity (6/8, 75%). This percentage was significantly higher than that found in tumours from any other site (P<0.01). Viral transcripts of early regions were detected in all HPV16 positive tumours. HPV status was not related to age, gender, tumour stage or grade, and use of alcohol and/or tobacco. The results suggest that HPV16 is actively involved in the genesis of a subset of head and neck cancers and that the tonsillar localization may be considered a hot spot for viral transformation.

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