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Anticancer Res. 1997 Nov-Dec;17(6D):4427-33.

Human papillomavirus and Epstein-Barr virus in epithelial carcinomas of the head and neck region.

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MediCity Research Center, University of Turku, Finland.



Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA has been detected in carcinomas of the upper aerodigestive tract. However, studies of the subject show considerable variation in their results, and the causal relationship between HPV and squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck area still remains to be determined. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is consistently detected in nasopharyngeal carcinoma lesions, but little is known about its association with other carcinomas of the head and neck region. The present study was carried out on the role of HPV and EBV in epithelial carcinomas of the upper aerodigestive tract.


The study material comprised 79 frozen biopsy samples from epithelial head and neck carcinomas. DNA was extracted from frozen biopsy samples for analysis using Southern blot hybridization (SBH) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect HPV DNA.


HPV DNA was detected in 13 samples (16.5%) by SBH under low stringency conditions and in three samples (3.8%) by PCR using general primers targeting the HPV L1 region. HPV seemed to have affinity for labial carcinomas: four of the six samples (66.7%) were HPV DNA positive. The detection rate of HPV diminished from the labial and oral epithelium towards the laryngeal region. In SBH, EBV DNA was not found in any of the biopsy samples.


HPV seems to be involved in multifactorial carcinogenesis in the head and neck epithelium, but the association is not as evident as that found in genital carcinomas. The results suggest that EBV is not associated with sporadic nasopharyngeal carcinomas.

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