Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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HPV Status May Influence Mortality Rates in Patients With Oropharyngeal Cancer

By: Cordi Craig
Posted: Friday, January 17, 2020

Human papillomavirus (HPV) status appears to affect mortality outcomes among patients with oropharyngeal cancer, concluded a study published in Cancer. HPV status seemed to dictate the rates of head and neck cancer–specific mortality and competing mortality. Patients with HPV-negative cancer may be at a substantially higher risk of early death than patients with HPV-positive cancer. These findings may help inform clinicians on patient management and survivorship.

“The study is really eye-opening when it comes to the high risk of death among patients with HPV-negative oropharynx cancer,” Danielle N. Margalit, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, explained in a press release. “The information can be put to use by clinicians who see patients after treatment. They need to be vigilant not just about head and neck cancer recurrence, but also about screening for other cancers and noncancer comorbidities that can influence patients’ risk of early death, and they should counsel patients on addressing modifiable risk factors.”

Using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data set, the research team identified 4,930 patients with nonmetastatic oropharyngeal cancer and known HPV status. Overall, 3,560 patients were HPV-positive and 1,370 were HPV-negative.

After a median follow-up of 11 months, patients with HPV-positive disease had a significantly lower risk of 2-year all-cause mortality (10.4% vs. 33.3%; P < .0001), cancer-specific mortality (4.8% vs. 16.2%; P < .0001), and competing mortality (5.6% vs. 16.8%; P < .0001). Among patients with HPV-negative disease, second-cancer mortality was the most common cause of death. Patients with HPV-negative disease also had higher mortality rates than those with HPV-positive disease due to both second-cancer (10.8% vs. 2.4%) and noncancer mortality (6.1% vs. 3.2%).

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit acsjournals.com.

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