Author: Kelly Johnson
The presence of HPV16 DNA is common at diagnosis of HPV-related oropharyngeal carcinoma (HPV-OPC) but rare after treatment. HPV-OPC has a favorable prognosis; however, 10% to 25% of patients experience disease progression, usually within 2 years of treatment.
Patients who have HPV 16 DNA in their saliva following treatment of their oropharyngeal cancer are more likely to have their cancer recur, and a prospective cohort study published in JAMA Oncology has shown that a simple mouth rinse can be used to detect it.
Gypsyamber D’Souza, PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and fellow researchers monitored 124 patients with newly diagnosed oropharyngeal cancer from 2009 through 2013. They collected oral rinse and gargle samples using 10 mL of mouthwash at the time of diagnosis as well as after treatment 9, 12, 18, and 24 months later.
HPV16 DNA was detected in 67 out of 124 of the participants testing positive. Of the 67 patients who had HPV16 DNA in their saliva at the time of diagnosis, five patients (7%) were found to still have traces of HPV16 in their oral rinses following treatment.
All five patients developed a local recurrence of oropharyngeal cancer, three of whom died from the disease.
“It’s a very small number so we have to be somewhat cautious,” said D’Souza, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School and a member of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a statement. However, “The fact that all of the patients with persistent HPV16 DNA in their rinses after treatment later had recurrence meant that this may have the potential to become an effective prognostic tool.”