Evaluating the Utility and Prevalence of HPV Biomarkers in Oral Rinses and Serology for HPV-related Oropharyngeal Cancer

Gypsyamber D'Souza, Gwendolyn Clemens, Tanya Troy, Rachel G. Castillo, Linda Struijk, Tim Waterboer, Noemi Bender, Phillip M. Pierorazio, Simon R. Best, Howard Strickler, Dorothy J. Wiley, Robert I. Haddad, Marshall Posner, Carole Fakhry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Performance of commercially available human papillomavirus (HPV) assays (approved for cervical HPV detection) is unknown for detecting HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-OPC). Assays for detection of HPV DNA [ELISA (DEIA) and Cobas], and RNA (Aptima) in oral rinse samples, and serum HPV oncogene antibodies were evaluated. Sensitivity and specificity of each test was explored among HPV-OPC cases and controls. Biomarker prevalence was evaluated among 294 "at-risk" people (screening) and 133 "high-risk" people [known to previously have oral oncogenic HPV (oncHPV) DNA and/or HPV16 E6/E7 antibodies detected]. HPV16 E6 antibodies had the best overall test performance with sensitivity of 88%, compared with oral HPV16 DNA sensitivity of 51% by DEIA and 43% by Cobas (each P < 0.001). Specificity was comparable in each of these tests (>98%). When positivity for any oncHPV type was compared with HPV16 for the same test, sensitivity was comparable (60% vs. 51%, 40% vs. 43%, and 92% vs. 88% for DEIA, Cobas, and E6 antibodies, respectively), but specificity was reduced (93%-97%). Aptima had poor sensitivity (23%). Sensitivity decreased when cotesting HPV16 oral rinse DNA and E6 antibodies (37%-48%), or multiple E antibodies (69%-72%). HPV16 DNA were detected in ~2% of the at-risk by either DEIA or Cobas and up to 15% of the high-risk population. HPV16 E6 seroprevalence was 2.3% and 2.4% in the at-risk and high-risk populations, respectively. Oral rinse HPV testing had moderate-to-poor sensitivity for HPV-OPC, suggesting many true positives would be missed in a potential screening scenario. HPV16 E6 serum antibody was the most promising biomarker evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-699
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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