Evaluation of the impact of tumor HPV status on outcome in patients with locally advanced unresectable head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) receiving cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil with or without docetaxel: a subset analysis of EORTC 24971 study

A Psyrri, C Fortpied, G Koutsodontis, M Avgeris, C Kroupis, N Goutas, J Menis, L Herman, L Giurgea, E Remenar, M Degardin, I S Pateras, J A Langendijk, C van Herpen, A Awada, J R Germà-Lluch, H R Kienzer, L Licitra, J B Vermorken

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Background: EORTC 24971 was a phase III trial demonstrating superiority of induction regimen TPF over PF, in terms of progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in locoregionally advanced unresectable HNSCC. We conducted a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data aiming to evaluate whether only HPV(-) patients (pts) benefit from adding docetaxel to PF, in which case de-intensifying induction treatment in HPV(+) pts could be considered.

Methods: Pre-therapy tumor biopsies (blocks or slides) were assessed for high-risk HPV by p16 immunohistochemistry, PCR and qPCR. HPV-DNA+ and/or p16+ tumors were subjected to in situ hybridization (ISH) and HPV E6 oncogene expression qRT-PCR analysis. Primary and secondary objectives were to evaluate the value of HPV/p16 status as predictive factor of treatment benefit in terms of PFS and OS. The predictive effect was analyzed based on the model used in the primary analysis of the study with the addition of a treatment by marker interaction term and tested at two-sided 5% significance level.

Results: 119 of 358 pts had available tumor samples and 58 of them had oropharyngeal cancer. Median follow-up was 8.7 years. Sixteen of 119 (14%) evaluable samples were p16+ and 20 of 79 (25%) evaluable tumors were HPV-DNA+. 13 of 40 pts (33%) assessed with HPV-DNA ISH and 12 of 28 pts (43%) assessed for HPV E6 mRNA were positive. The pre-planned analysis showed no statistical evidence of predictive value of HPV/p16 status for PFS ( p =0.287) or OS ( p =0.118).

Conclusions: The incidence of HPV positivity was low in the subset of EORTC 24971 pts analyzed. In this analysis only powered to detect a large treatment by marker interaction there was no statistical evidence that treatment effect found overall was different in magnitude in HPV(+) or HPV(-) pts. These results do not justify selection of TPF versus PF according to HPV status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2213-2218
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number9
Early online date23-Jun-2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2017


  • human papillomavirus
  • head and neck cancer
  • oropharyngeal cancer
  • EORTC 24971/TAX323 phase III clinical trial
  • TPF induction chemotherapy
  • HPV16
  • P16
  • E6

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