THURSDAY, June 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Seroconversion to human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16)-E6 antibody positivity can occur decades before diagnosis of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), according to a study published online June 12 in the Annals of Oncology.

Aimée R. Kreimer, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues examined the timing of seroconversion to HPV16-E6 antibody positivity in OPSCC. At least one prediagnostic blood sample was provided by 743 incident OPSCC cases and 5,814 controls.

The researchers found that 0.4 and 26.2 percent of controls and cases, respectively, had HPV16-E6 seropositivity. HPV16-E6 seropositivity correlated with increased odds of OPSCC in whites and blacks (98.2-fold and 17.2-fold, respectively). In those with blood collection near diagnosis, seropositivity was more frequent in cases in recent periods, ranging from 21.9 percent pre-1996 to 68.4 percent in 2005 onward. With decreasing lead time, HPV16-E6 seropositivity increased: 0.0, 13.5, 23.7, and 38.9 percent with lead times of >30, 20 to 30, 10 to 20, and <10 years, respectively. Seventeen of the 47 HPV16-E6 seropositive cases with serially collected blood samples seroconverted during follow-up (six to 28 years before diagnosis); for the other 30 cases, there was robust seropositivity up to 25 years before diagnosis.

“Although HPV16 antibodies could be a way to identify people at very high risk of cancer, we are currently missing the critical next steps in the screening process,” Kreimer said in a statement.

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