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November 1997

Human Papillomavirus Expression and p53 Gene Mutations in Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (Drs Portugal, Goldenberg, and Wenig and Messrs Sabnani and Javier) and Pathology (Dr Ferrer), University of Illinois at Chicago; and the Departments of Radiation and Cellular Oncology (Dr Weichselbaum and Ms Nodzenski) and Medical Oncology (Dr Vokes), University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123(11):1230-1234. doi:10.1001/archotol.1997.01900110084011

Objectives:  To determine the incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and p53 gene mutation expression in squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the oral cavity and tonsils, to correlate the presence of HPV and p53 gene mutation with known clinical and pathological features of SCC, and to determine whether infection with HPV or the presence of p53 gene mutations are independent prognosticators of patient survival.

Design:  To accomplish this goal, 58 patients with SCCs of the oral cavity and 42 patients with SCCs of the tonsils were randomly examined. The cases examined met the criteria of 5-year clinical follow-up, availability of complete staging information and treatment history, and the presence of paraffin-embedded tumor specimens. Immunohistochemical tests were performed to identify the mutant p53 protein. Human papillomavirus identification was accomplished with polymerase chain reaction, with confirmation via restriction fragment length polymorphisms.

Results:  The incidence of p53 gene mutation expression for this series was 66%. Human papillomavirus infection was found in 11 patients (11%). There was a trend toward increased p53 gene mutation expression with advancing stage of tumor in the oral cavity cancer group, although this was less evident in the tonsil cancer population. The p53 gene mutation status was found not to correlate with the histological grade of the tumor, patient age or sex, recurrence rates, or survival status. Like p53 expression, there were no correlations found between the presence of HPV and age, sex, histological grade, or recurrence rates. However, a correlation did exist between HPV and survival status in the tonsil cancer group, with improved survival noted among patients with tonsil cancers infected with HPV compared with those not infected with HPV. A significant correlation existed with both p53 gene mutation status and HPV status with respect to alcohol and tobacco use. The presence of the p53 gene mutation positively correlated with increased tobacco and alcohol use, whereas infection with HPV predicted a significantly lower rate of alcohol and tobacco consumption.

Conclusions:  Human papillomavirus infection is an independent risk factor for the development of oral cavity and tonsil SCCs in those patients with a relatively low alcohol and tobacco use history. Conversely, there is a strong association between heavy alcohol and tobacco use and mutation of the p53 gene. Neither p53 gene mutation nor HPV infection serve as prognosticators of tumor behavior in SCCs of the oral cavity or tonsils, with the exception of improved survival noted among patients with tonsil cancers infected with HPV.Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123:1230-1234