Helsingin yliopisto

 

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Prognostic markers in head and neck carcinoma

Walter Koskinen

Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine and Haartman Institute, Department of Virology.

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. Well-known risk factors include tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption. Overall survival has improved, but is still low especially in developing countries. One reason for this is the often advanced stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, but also lack of reliable prognostic tools to enable individualized patient treatment to improve outcome. To date, the TNM classification still serves as the best disease evaluation criterion, although it does not take into account the molecular basis of the tumor. The need for surrogate molecular markers for more accurate disease prediction has increased research interests in this field.

We investigated the prevalence, physical status, and viral load of human papillomavirus (HPV) in HNSCC to determine the impact of HPV on head and neck carcinogenesis. The prevalence and genotyping of HPV were assessed with an SPF10 PCR microtiter plate-based hybridization assay (DEIA), followed by a line probe-based genotyping assay. More than half of the patients had HPV DNA in their tumor specimens. Oncogenic HPV-16 was the most common type, and coinfections with other oncogenic and benign associated types also existed. HPV-16 viral load was unevenly distributed among different tumor sites; the tonsils harbored significantly greater amounts of virus than other sites. Episomal location of HPV-16 was associated with large tumors, and both integrated and mixed forms of viral DNA were detected. In this series, we could not show that the presence of HPV DNA correlated with survival.

In addition, we investigated the prevalence and genotype of HPV in laryngeal carcinoma patients in a prospective Nordic multicenter study based on fresh-frozen laryngeal tumor samples to determine whether the tumors were HPV-associated. These patients were also examined and interviewed at diagnosis for known risk factors, such as tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, and for several other habituations to elucidate their effects on patient survival. HPV analysis was performed with the same protocols as in the first study. Only 4% of the specimens harbored HPV DNA. Heavy drinking was associated with poor survival. Heavy drinking patients were also younger than nonheavy drinkers and had a more advanced stage of disease at diagnosis. Heavy drinkers had worse oral hygiene than nonheavy drinkers; however, poor oral hygiene did not have prognostic significance. History of chronic laryngitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and orogenital sex contacts were rare in this series.

The immune system plays an important role in tumorigenesis, as neoplastic cells have to escape the cytotoxic lymphocytes in order to survive. Several candidate HLA class II alleles have been reported to be prognostic in cervical carcinomas, an epithelial malignancy resembling HNSCC. These alleles may have an impact on head and neck carcinomas as well. We determined HLA-DRB1* and -DQB1* alleles in HNSCC patients. Healthy organ donors served as controls. The Inno-LiPA reverse dot-blot kit was used to identify alleles in patient samples. No single haplotype was found to be predictive of either the risk for head and neck cancer, or the clinical course of the disease. However, alleles observed to be prognostic in cervical carcinomas showed a similar tendency in our series. DRB1*03 was associated with node-negative disease at diagnosis. DRB1*08 and DRB1*13 were associated with early-stage disease; DRB1*04 had a lower risk for tumor relapse; and DQB1*03 and DQB1*0502 were more frequent in controls than in patients. However, these associations reached only borderline significance in our HNSCC patients.

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Last updated 06.11.2006

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