HPV16 detection after oropharyngeal cancer treatment may increase risk for recurrence

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Patients with oropharyngeal cancer who were found to have detectable traces of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) in their saliva after cancer treatment are at a higher risk for disease recurrence, according to a new study published in JAMA Oncology.

For the study, researchers enrolled 124 patients who had been diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer. Participants had their saliva collected at diagnosis, after treatment, and at nine, 12, 18, and 24 months after diagnosis.

Results showed that 7% of those who had HPV16 DNA in their saliva at the time of diagnosis were found to still have HPV16 DNA following treatment.

The findings may help clinicians determine which patients require further treatment to reduce the risk for developing disease recurrence.

"It should be reassuring that most people who have been treated for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers are cured and there is no HPV16 DNA detected in their mouths, but among those that did recur, this was an important potential predictor," says Gypsyamber D'Souza, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a member of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Patients with oropharyngeal cancer who were found to have detectable traces of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) in their saliva.
The presence of persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 DNA in oral rinses after treatment for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer was rare but it appears to be associated with poor prognosis and therefore may have potential as a long-term tool for tumor surveillance, according to an article published online by JAMA Oncology.
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