In a retrospective review, we identified 332 patients with 338 pathologically diagnosed primary oropharyngeal carcinomas (OPC) between January 2013 and March 2020 with known p16/HPV status from a tumor registry at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The tumors predominantly involved the palatine tonsil (51 %) and the base of the tongue/lingual tonsil (38 %). The most common type of cancer was non-keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma (60 %), and the majority of primaries were p16 positive/HPV-mediated (86 %). A cohort of p16 positive/HPV mediated OPC (27/283, 9.5 %) presented with aggressive clinical behavior, including multiple distant metastases at unusual sites. Tumor size >2 cm and the presence of tumor anaplasia/multinucleation were significantly associated with an increased rate of distant metastases in p16 positive/HPV mediated cases, both in unadjusted and adjusted analyses (all P < 0.05). Of the 332 individuals in the overall cohort, 38 individuals died due to their disease within the observed follow-up time. Among the 283 patients with p16 positive/HPV mediated tumors, survival was estimated at 97 % (95 % CI 95 %, 100 %) at 1 year, 95 % (95 % CI 92 %, 98 %) at 2 years, and 80 % (95 % CI 72 %, 89 %) at 5 years. The presence of tumor anaplasia/multinucleation and distant metastasis were both significantly associated with poorer disease-specific survival in p16 positive/HPV mediated cases (both P < 0.05), with the survival effect of tumor anaplasia/multinucleation likely mediated in part through its association with distant metastasis. For p16 positive/HPV-mediated OPC, age, smoking status, tumor status, and lymph node status were not significantly associated with disease-specific survival in our study.
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