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Laryngoscope. 2010 Sep;120(9):1756-72. doi: 10.1002/lary.20936.

Human papillomavirus and oropharynx cancer: biology, detection and clinical implications.

Author information

1
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA. allencl@ent.wustl.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To review evidence for the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the etiology of oropharyngeal cancers, methods of viral detection, and the resulting clinical implications.

STUDY DESIGN:

Contemporary review.

METHODS:

Published journal articles identified through PubMed and conference proceedings were reviewed.

RESULTS:

HPV-associated squamous cell carcinomas represent a distinct disease entity from carcinogen-associated squamous cell carcinomas. HPV oncoproteins lead to mucosal cell transformation through well-defined mechanisms. Different methods of detecting HPV exist with variable levels of sensitivity and specificity for biologically active virus. Although virus is detected in a number of head and neck subsites, studies demonstrate improved outcomes in HPV-associated carcinoma of the oropharynx only. The cell cycle regulatory protein p16 is upregulated by biologically active HPV and serves as a biomarker of improved response to therapy.

CONCLUSIONS:

HPV-associated squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx is a biologically distinct entity from carcinogen-associated carcinoma. Understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the improved outcomes in patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal carcinoma may lead to novel therapeutics for patients with carcinogen-associated carcinomas.

PMID:
20669304
DOI:
10.1002/lary.20936
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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