The revised 8th Edition American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Head and Neck Staging Manual distinguishes HPV-mediated from non-HPV-mediated oropharyngeal cancer (OpSCC). The objective was to analyze OpSCC treatment modalities and outcomes.
A retrospective study of OpSCC patients treated with radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy between January 1st, 2000, and December 31st, 2008, as identified from the BC Cancer Registry. All patients received treatment at cancer clinics and had at least 5 years follow-up post-treatment. A total of 1259 OpSCC patients were identified. After initial chart reviews, 288 patients were excluded from further analysis and the majority (n = 198) was due to not receiving curative treatment. Based on the availability of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue, patients were divided into two cohorts: Study Cohort (FFPE available, n = 244) and General Cohort (FFPE unavailable, n = 727). The Study Cohort was restaged according to AJCC 8th Edition based on p16 immunohistochemistry status. Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to estimate the 5-year overall survival (OS), disease-specific survival (DSS), and locoregional recurrence-free survival (LFS).
Among 971 patients, OpSCC age-adjusted incidence rate was observed to have increased from 2.1 to 3.5 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2008. The General Cohort was relatively older than the Study Cohort (60.1 ± 10.5 vs. 57.3 ± 9.4), but both cohorts were predominantly males (78.3% vs. 76.2%). Amongst the Study Cohort, 77.5% were p16-positive, of whom 98.4% were down staged in the 8th Edition. These early-stage patients showed OS improvement for those treated with chemoradiation, compared to radiation alone (85.8% vs. 73.1%, p = 0.05).
OpSCC incidence is increasing in BC. The addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy may portend a benefit in OS even for early-stage p16-positive OpSCC. Additional research is necessary to assess the safety of treatment de-escalation even among early-stage disease.

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