The Association Of The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) With P16ink4a In Head And Neck Cancer

Time: 13:15 - 13:30

Date: 25 April 2018

Theatre: Dodder A


The Association Of The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) With P16ink4a In Head And Neck Cancer

 Foy-Stones, H., Nor, N., Donegan, L., Murtagh, F., Muldoon, T.

Department of Biopharmaceutical and Medical Science, GMIT.

 Department of Histopathology, MRHT.


Introduction: The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has emerged from anonymity as a carcinogenic agent in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs). This sexually transmitted virus principally targets the oropharynx, which has recently led Ireland’s department of health to consider extending the HPV vaccine to Irish men.(1) There is no gold standard for HPV testing, but HPV in situ hybridization (ISH) is employed to directly detect HPV DNA.(2) The over expression of the tumour suppressor protein p16INK4a is detected using p16INK4a immunohistochemistry (IHC), which indirectly represents the presence of HPV.(3)

Materials and Methods: In total, thirty-five HNSCC samples from the pharynx (n=2), oropharynx (n=18), larynx (n=14) and salivary gland (n=1) were retrospectively selected and tested using the Ventana BenchMark Ultra staining system. The detection of p16INK4a involved using the CINtec p16INK4a antibody for IHC staining and the high-risk HPVs were detected using the Ventana HPV III Family 16 Probe for ISH staining.

Results: Analysis of the thirty-five cases demonstrated that 34.3% tested positive for HPV and p16INK4a (n=12/35). HPV tested negative in 65.7% of cases (n=23/35) and of these, p16INK4a tested both negative (n=17/23) and positive (n=6/23). The HPV ISH and p16 INK4a IHC correlated in 82.9% of cases. A statistical relationship between HPV and p16INK4a in the oropharynx was observed (p<0.05) with 61.1% of the selected oropharyngeal samples exhibiting positivity (n=11/18). The HPV/p16INK4a positive cases were prominent in males aged 60-69 but no statistical relationship was observed (p>0.05).

Conclusion: The correlation between HPV and p16INK4a in the thirty-five HNSCC cases highlights that p16INK4a IHC shows potential as a screening tool that would prompt HPV ISH testing in oropharyngeal cancers cases. The link between HPV and p16INK4a in cancers of the oropharynx should be highlighted to all health care systems throughout Ireland to promote routine histopathology testing. This would allow prevalence statistics to be generated and reinforce the importance of vaccinating both males and females to reduce HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers for future generations.


  1. Cancer Trends 33 – HPV-associated cancers | National Cancer Registry Ireland [Internet]. 2018 [cited 7 May 2017]. Available from:
  2. Ventana, INFORM HPV III Family 16 Probe (B). [Pamphlet]. Arizona USA: Ventana. 2017.
  3. Ventana, CINtec p16 Histology. [Pamphlet]. Arizona USA: Ventana. 2016.


  • Hayley Foy-Stones GMIT

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