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Human papillomavirus testing in metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the neck with unknown primary using PCR on fine-needle aspiration smears: a prospective clinical study

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PURPOSE: Squamous cell carcinoma metastasis of the head and neck with unknown primary tumor (CUP) comprises a diagnostic challenge. Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing on cytologic specimens is gaining increasing focus as this may facilitate an early diagnosis of HPV-induced oropharyngeal carcinoma. This study aimed to prospectively assess PCR-based HPV-DNA testing on FNA smears in a clinical setting.

METHODS: Patients referred to a tertiary Head and Neck Cancer Center with suspected CUP were included from November 2016 to November 2018. Scraped cell material from FNA smears was analyzed for HPV-DNA with PCR using general primers (GP5 + /GP6 +) and correlated with the origin and histology of the primary tumor (oropharynx vs. outside oropharynx or benign tumor). The turn-around time reflecting the workflow for HPV-DNA testing by PCR was also calculated.

RESULTS: A total of 93 patients were enrolled in the study. The sensitivity and specificity were 86.7% [95% CI 75.4-94.1%] and 92.0% [95% CI 74.0-99.0%], and the positive and negative predictive values were 96.3% [95% CI 87.3-99.0%] and 74.2% [95% CI 59.9-84.7%], respectively. The turn-around time for HPV testing was a mean four calendar days.

CONCLUSION: HPV-DNA testing on FNA smears can be performed within a reasonable timeframe and can guide for the detection of an HPV-positive oropharyngeal primary tumor in the clinical setting for patients presenting with CUP of the head and neck.

TidsskriftEuropean archives of oto-rhino-laryngology : official journal of the European Federation of Oto-Rhino-Laryngological Societies (EUFOS) : affiliated with the German Society for Oto-Rhino-Laryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)3115-3121
Antal sider7
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2022

Bibliografisk note

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

ID: 69025984