BackgroundPrevious studies have reported conflicting information regarding the prognostic role of p16 in nonoropharyngeal head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
MethodsUsing the US Veterans Affairs database, we analyzed 1448 patients with locoregionally advanced HNSCC and known p16 status diagnosed between 2005 and 2015 and treated with surgery, radiotherapy, or chemoradiotherapy. Tumor p16 status was determined through manual review of pathology reports of primary tumor specimens. Oropharyngeal (n = 1061) or nonoropharyngeal (n = 387; hypopharyngeal, laryngeal, or oral cavity) tumor site was determined from tumor registry data and manually reviewed for accuracy. We used multivariable Cox regression to analyze the effect of p16 status on overall survival (OS), cancer-specific survival (CSS), and competing mortality (CM) for oropharyngeal or nonoropharyngeal tumor sites. All statistical tests were two-sided.
ResultsIn multivariable models adjusting for treatment, stage, age, comorbidity, and body mass index, patients with p16-positive tumors had improved OS, CSS, and CM compared with patients with p16-negative tumors in both oropharyngeal (OS: hazard ratio [HR] = 0.53, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.40 to 0.71, P < .001; CSS: HR = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.35 to 0.73, P < .001; CM: HR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.38 to 0.93, P = .02) and nonoropharyngeal primary sites (OS: HR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.25 to 0.69, P < .001; CSS: HR = 0.37, 95% CI = 0.18 to 0.77, P = .008; CM: HR = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.23 to 0.95, P = .04). The prognostic impact of p16 status did not statistically significantly differ by primary tumor site for OS, CSS, or CM (Pinteraction > .05).
ConclusionsOur findings support the hypothesis that p16 has a similar prognostic role in both nonoropharyngeal and oropharyngeal cancer. Consideration should be given to increased testing for p16 in laryngeal, hypopharyngeal, and oral cavity primaries.