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Data indicates that HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to survive as HPV-negative patients

oropharyngeal cancer


PDF of press release and abstract 


A retrospective analysis of oropharyngeal patients with recurrence of disease after primary therapy in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) studies 0129 or 0522 found that HPV-positive patients had a higher overall survival (OS) rate than HPV-negative patients (at two years post-treatment, 54.6 percent vs. 27.6 percent, respectively), according to research presented today at the 2014 Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium.
The analysis included 181 patients with stage III-IV oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) with known HPV status (HPV-positive = 105; HPV-negative = 76), and cancer progression that was local, regional and/or distant after completion of primary cisplatin-based chemotherapy and radiation therapy (standard vs. accelerated fractionation (AFX)) in RTOG 0129 or cisplatin-AFX with or without cetuximab in RTOG 0522. Tumor status was determined by a surrogate, p16 immunohistochemistry.

Median time to progression was virtually the same for HPV-positive and HPV-negative patients (8.2 months vs. 7.3 months, respectively). Increased risk of death in univariate analysis was associated with high tumor stage at diagnosis (T4 vs. T2-T3), fewer on-protocol cisplatin cycles (≤1 vs. 2-3) and distant vs. local/regional recurrent (for all, hazard ratios (HRs) >2.0 and p<0.05). Risk of death after disease progression increased by 1 percent per cigarette pack-year at diagnosis. Rates were estimated by Kaplan-Meier method and compared by log-rank. HRs were estimated by Cox proportional hazards models and stratified by treatment protocol.

In addition, HPV-positive and HPV-negative patients who underwent surgery after cancer recurrence also experienced improved OS compared to those who did not undergo surgery. (The effect may have been more pronounced among HPV-positive than HPV-negative patients.) Recurrence is most commonly in the lungs for both groups of patients.

“Our findings demonstrate that HPV-positive OPSCC patients have significantly improved survival after progression of disease when compared with HPV-negative patients. Median survival after disease progression was strikingly longer for HPV-positive than HPV-negative patients,” said lead author Carole Fakhry, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “These findings provide us with valuable knowledge to better counsel and treat patients.”

This study was supported by National Cancer Institute grants U10 CA21661 and U10 CA37422 and Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

The abstract, “Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Overall Survival (OS) After Progression of Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OPSCC),” will be presented in detail during the Plenary session on Thursday, February 20 at 12:30 p.m. Mountain time at the 2014 Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium. To speak with Dr. Fakhry, contact Michelle Kirkwood on February 20 – 21, 2014 in the ASTRO Press Office at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona at 480-596-7085.

The 2014 Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium is sponsored by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American Head & Neck Society (AHNS). The two-and-a-half day meeting includes interactive educational sessions focused on topics such as supportive care, directed therapy, new surgical and radiotherapeutic techniques, as well as 12 oral abstract presentations of the current science of relevance to the head and neck cancer community. A total of 189 abstracts will be presented including 177 posters. Keynote speakers include Jennifer Grandis, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh, to present “The Molecular Road to Defining and Targeting High-risk Head and Neck Patients;” and Julia H. Rowland, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, to present “Cancer Survivorship: Research Opportunities on the Path to Where We Want to Be.”

Media Contacts

Michelle Kirkwood
703-286-1600