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12 June 2019

Antibodies against HPV16 detectable in blood several decades before diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer

The HPV Cancer Cohort Consortium (HPVC3), which is led by scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the United States National Cancer Institute, has mapped the presence of antibodies against human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) before clinical diagnosis of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). The antibodies were observed in blood drawn 6–40 years before diagnosis.

The study, published today in the journal Annals of Oncology, examined blood samples from 9 population cohorts in Australia, Europe, and the USA, including a total of 743 patients with OPSCC and 5814 people without cancer (controls). The researchers found that antibodies against HPV16 E6 were present in fewer than 0.5% of controls (22 of 5814) but in more than 25% of patients with OPSCC (195 of 743). Patients with OPSCC diagnosed in more recent years were more likely to have HPV16 E6 antibodies.

The antibodies were present before diagnosis in 27.2% of White people with OPSCC (191 of 701) and in 7.7% of Black people with OPSCC (3 of 39). This indicates that the presence of HPV16 E6 antibodies was associated with a 100-fold increase in the risk of developing OPSCC in White people and a 17-fold increase in Black people.

Kreimer AR, Ferreiro-Iglesias A, Nygard M, Bender N, Schroeder L, Hildesheim A, et al.
Timing of HPV16-E6 antibody seroconversion before OPSCC: findings from the HPVC3 consortium
Ann Oncol, Published online 12 June 2019;
https://doi.org/10.1093/annonc/mdz138

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