Objectives/Hypothesis: Mortality for black males with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is twice that of white males or females. Human papillomavirus (HPV)-active HNSCC, defined by the concurrent presence of high-risk type HPV DNA and host cell p16INK4a expression, is associated with decreased mortality. We hypothesized that prevalence of this HPV-active disease class would be lower in black HNSCC patients compared to white patients. Study Design: Multi-institutional retrospective cohort analysis. Methods: Real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to evaluate for high-risk HPV DNA presence. Immunohistochemistry for p16INK4a protein was used as a surrogate marker for HPV oncoprotein activity. Patients were classified as HPV-negative (HPV DNA-negative, p16INK4a low), HPV-inactive (HPV DNA-positive, p16INK4a low), and HPV-active (HPV DNA-positive, p16INK4a high). Overall survival and recurrence rates were compared by Fisher exact test and Kaplan-Meier analysis. Results: There were 140 patients with HNSCC who met inclusion criteria. Self-reported ethnicity was white (115), black (25), and other (0). Amplifiable DNA was recovered from 102/140 patients. The presence of HPV DNA and the level of p16INK4a expression were determined, and the results were used to classify these patients as HPV-negative (44), HPV-inactive (33), and HPV-active (25). Patients with HPV-active HNSCC had improved overall 5-year survival (59.7%) compared to HPV-negative and HPV-inactive patients (16.9%) (P = .003). Black patients were less likely to have HPV-active disease (0%) compared to white patients (21%) (P = .017). Conclusions: The favorable HPV-active disease class is less common in black than in white patients with HNSCC, which appears to partially explain observed ethnic health disparities.
- Ethnic disparities
- Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
- Human papillomavirus
ASJC Scopus subject areas