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JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Jun 1;144(6):519-525. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2018.0395.

Association of Human Papillomavirus Status at Head and Neck Carcinoma Subsites With Overall Survival.

Li H1,2, Torabi SJ1,2, Yarbrough WG1,2,3,4, Mehra S1,2,3, Osborn HA1,2,3, Judson B1,2,3.

Author information

Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Section of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Yale Cancer Center, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.



Data are limited on the prognostic value of human papillomavirus (HPV) status for head and neck carcinoma subsites.


To determine whether HPV positivity at each head and neck subsite is associated with improved overall survival.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

This retrospective population-based cohort study used the National Cancer Database to identify patients diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2014. Patients were classified according to the location of their primary malignancy into 1 of the 6 main subsites of the upper aerodigestive tract: oral cavity, oropharynx, nasopharynx, hypopharynx, larynx, and sinonasal tract. Patients were also classified by their HPV status. Data collection for this study took place from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2014. Data analysis was conducted from August 1, 2017, to September 30, 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

The difference in 5-year overall survival between patients with HPV-positive status and those with HPV-negative status in various head and neck carcinoma subsites; the role of HPV status in an unadjusted Cox multivariate regression model.


Of the 175 223 total number of patients identified (129 634 [74.0%] male; 45 589 [26.0%] female; mean [SD] age, 63.1 [11.9] years), 133 273 (76.1%) were ineligible and 41 950 (23.9%) were included in the sample. This sample included 16 644 patients (39.7%) with HPV-positive tumors and 25 306 (60.3%) with HPV-negative tumors. Patients with an HPV-positive status were more likely to be younger, be white, be male, present with local T category tumors, and have poor differentiation on histologic examination. HPV-positive status was associated with survival at 4 tumor subsites: oral cavity (hazard ratio [HR], 0.76; 95% CI, 0.66-0.87), oropharynx (HR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.41-0.47), hypopharynx (HR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.45-0.77), and larynx (HR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.59-0.85). The HPV status was the greatest factor in survival outcome between the HPV-positive and -negative cohorts at the oropharynx subsite (77.6% vs 50.7%; survival difference, 26.9%; 95% CI, 25.6%-28.2%) and hypopharynx subsites (52.2% vs 28.8%; survival difference, 23.4%; 95% CI, 17.5%-29.3%). For the nasopharynx (HR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.75-1.42) and sinonasal tract (HR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.39-1.01) subsites, HPV-positive status was not an independent prognostic factor.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Human papillomavirus positivity was associated with improved survival in 4 subsites (oropharynx, hypopharynx, oral cavity, and larynx), and the largest survival difference was noted in the oropharynx and hypopharynx subsites. In the nasopharynx and sinonasal tract subsites, HPV positivity had no association with overall survival. Given these results, routine testing for HPV at the oropharynx, hypopharynx, oral cavity, and larynx subsites may be warranted.

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