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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Jan 1;13(1):132-8.

High human papillomavirus oncogene mRNA expression and not viral DNA load is associated with poor prognosis in cervical cancer patients.

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Department of Pathology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.



Cervical cancer is now known to be caused by infection with an oncogenic type of the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, little is known about the continued role of HPV once cancer has been established. Here, we describe the quantitative relation between HPV DNA copy number and mRNA expression of the viral oncogenes (E6 and E7) and the prognostic value of both measures in cervical cancer patients.


We studied the number of viral DNA copies and the level of HPV E6/E7 mRNA expression in 75 HPV 16-positive or HPV 18-positive International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics stage Ib and IIa cervical cancer patients. Measurements were done with quantitative PCR. DNA copy number analysis was done on pure tumor cell samples enriched with flow sorting. mRNA expression data were compensated for the percentage of tumor cells included.


The number of viral DNA copies was not predictive of survival in cervical cancer patients. In contrast, high HPV E6/E7 mRNA expression was strongly related to an unfavorable prognosis (P = 0.006). In a multivariate Cox model for overall survival, including all known prognostic variables and stratified for HPV type, the level of E6/E7 mRNA expression was an independent prognostic indicator, second only to lymph node status. No correlation was observed between DNA copy number and the level of HPV E6/E7 mRNA expression, which reflects that not all DNA copies are equally transcriptionally active.


Cervical cancer patients with high HPV E6/E7 oncogene mRNA expression have a worse survival independently from established prognostic factors.

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