Background Human papilloma virus (HPV) has been implicated in the carcinogenesis and prognosis of certain head and neck cancers. Whether it also has a role in the pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in Taiwan is unclear.
Methods Detection and genotyping of HPVs were performed in 43 primary NPCs (one WHO-I and 42 WHO-II/III) and 40 nasopharyngeal controls using PCR-based HPV genotyping arrays. Localisation of high-risk HPV and Epstein–Barr virus genomes was performed in another 46 primary NPCs (five WHO-I and 41 WHO-II/III) and seven paired metastatic WHO-II/III NPCs using in situ hybridisation.
Results In the HPV genotyping cohort, oncogenic HPVs were detected equally in WHO-II/III NPCs (31%, 13/42) and nasopharyngeal controls (35%, 14/40). Tumour high-risk HPV status did not correlate with the prognosis of patients with NPC. In the high-risk HPV in situ hybridisation cohort, 14 (88%) of the 16 oncogenic HPV-positive WHO-II/III NPCs showed a unique cytoplasmic/perinuclear staining pattern, which is distinct from the typical dot/punctate nuclear staining pattern indicating HPV genome integration. In addition, oncogenic HPVs were not always retained in NPC cells during the process of metastasis.
Conclusions This study does not support an association between oncogenic HPV and the carcinogenesis or prognosis of WHO-II/III NPCs in Taiwan.
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C-CH and J-RH contributed equally to this paper.
Funding This work was supported by the Comprehensive Cancer Center in Southern Taiwan (DOH99-TD-C-111-003), the National Cheng Kung University Hospital (NCKUH-9804004 to C-CH) and the National Science Council (NSC97-2314-B-006-039 to J-RH), Taiwan.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the institutional human experiment and ethics committee of the Medical College and Hospital, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.