Study Links Gum Disease and HPV-Status of Head and Neck Cancer Tumors



Human papillomavirus (HPV), once almost exclusively asso­ciated with cancer of the cer­vix, is now linked to head and neck cancer. According to a new University at Buffalo (NY) study just published in the Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, gum disease is asso­ciated with in­creased odds of tumors being HPV-positive. The study evaluated data from 124 patients diagnosed with primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) between 1999 and 2007. The aim of the study was to test the presence of periodontitis, a persistent inflammatory pro­cess and HPV-status of HNSCC.

Of the 124 tumor samples studied, 50 were positive for HPV-16 DNA and subjects with HPV-positive tumors had a significantly higher severity of periodontitis when compared to subjects with HPV-negative tumors. According to the Na­tional Cancer Institute, there has been a steady increase in the prevalence of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States since 1973 despite the significant decline in tobacco use since 1965. This increase has mainly been attributed to oral HPV infection. In the study, dental decay was not significantly linked to tumor-HPV status. The fact that only periodontitis was associated with tumor-HPV status points to the potential association of inflammation with this status. The next step in this re­search will be intervention studies to test whether treating the sources of inflammation, like gum disease, can reduce the acquisition and/or per­sistence of oral HPV infection and improve the prog­nosis of HPV-related diseases.

(Source: University at Buffalo, June 20, 2012)