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Antibodies to HPV16 Measured in Blood up to 28 Years Prior to Oropharyngeal Cancer Diagnosis

, by DCEG Staff

diagram of the anatomy of the pharynx

Human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16)-E6 antibodies can be detected in the blood of people with oropharyngeal cancer up to 28 years prior to diagnosis, according to new study by the National Cancer Institute and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These findings, which inform the natural history model for HPV16-associated disease, were published June 11, 2019 in the journal Annals of Oncology.

The same team discovered circulating HPV16-E6 antibodies prior to diagnosis of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), revealing the biomarker’s potential use in early detection of OPSCC. The present study utilizes data from the NCI Cohort Consortium to describe the timing of HPV16-E6 seroconversion among HPV16-driven OPSCC cases. Investigating the range of time prior to diagnosis that seroconversion occurs is important to understand how many years an individual who would test positive would be at risk. The authors report seroconversion up to 40 years before diagnosis, but not fewer than six years, providing insight on the interval between acquisition of clinically-relevant oral HPV infection and cancer initiation and progression to symptomatic disease.

Rates of HPV-positive OPSCC have been increasing in the U.S. and other high-income Western countries. Though the prophylactic HPV vaccines will prevent these cancers in the future, research is needed to determine the most appropriate way to identify individuals currently at high risk for HPV-associated OPSCC and identify best practices for their clinical management.


Kreimer AR, et al. Timing of HPV16-E6 antibody seroconversion before OPSCC: findings from the HPVC3 consortiumAnnals of Oncology. June 11, 2019. DOI: 10.1093/annonc/mdz138. [Epub ahead of print]


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