Human papillomavirus–related oropharyngeal carcinoma (HPV-OPC) is increasing in incidence in the United States. Although HPV-OPC has favorable prognosis, 10% to 25% of HPV-OPCs recur. Detection of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA in oral rinses is associated with HPV-OPC, but its potential as a prognostic biomarker is unclear.
To determine whether HPV DNA detection in oral rinses after treatment for HPV-OPC is associated with recurrence and survival.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Prospective cohort study of patients with incident HPV-OPC diagnosed from 2009 to 2013 at 4 academic tertiary referral cancer centers in the United States. Oral rinse samples were collected at diagnosis and after treatment (9, 12, 18, and 24 months after diagnosis), and evaluated for HPV DNA. Among an initial cohort of 157 participants with incident HPV-OPC treated with curative intent, 124 had 1 or more posttreatment oral rinses available and were included in this study.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) were estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method, and the association of HPV DNA detection in oral rinses with survival was evaluated using Cox regression analysis.
Oral HPV type 16 (HPV16) DNA was common at diagnosis (67 of 124 participants [54%]). In contrast, oral HPV16 DNA was detected in only 6 participants after treatment (5%), including 5 with HPV16 DNA also detected at diagnosis (persistent oral HPV16 DNA). Two-year DFS and OS were 92% (95% CI, 94%-100%) and 98% (95% CI, 93%-99%). Persistent oral HPV16 DNA was associated with worse DFS (hazard ratio, 29.7 [95% CI, 9.0-98.2]) and OS (hazard ratio, 23.5 [95% CI, 4.7-116.9]). All 5 participants with persistent oral HPV16 DNA developed recurrent disease, 3 with local disease involvement. In contrast, just 9 of 119 participants (8%) without persistent oral HPV16 DNA developed recurrent disease, only 1 (11%) with local disease involvement. Median (range) time from earliest posttreatment oral HPV16 DNA detection to recurrence was 7.0 (3.7-10.9) months.
Conclusions and Relevance
Human papillomavirus type 16 DNA in oral rinses is common at diagnosis but rare after treatment for HPV-OPC. Our data suggest that, although infrequent, persistent HPV16 DNA in posttreatment oral rinses is associated with poor prognosis and is a potential tool for long-term tumor surveillance, perhaps more so for local recurrence.