HLA class I and II expression in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma in relation to tumor HPV status and clinical outcome.

08 Jun 2018

HPV-DNA positive (HPVDNA+) oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) has better clinical outcome than HPV-DNA negative (HPVDNA-) OSCC. Current treatment may be unnecessarily extensive for most HPV+ OSCC, but before de-escalation, additional markers are needed together with HPV status to better predict treatment response. Here the influence of HLA class I/HLA class II expression was explored. Pre-treatment biopsies, from 439/484 OSCC patients diagnosed 2000-2009 and treated curatively, were analyzed for HLA I and II expression, p16(INK4a) and HPV DNA. Absent/weak as compared to high HLA class I intensity correlated to a very favorable disease-free survival (DFS), disease-specific survival (DSS) and overall survival (OS) in HPVDNA+ OSCC, both in univariate and multivariate analysis, while HLA class II had no impact. Notably, HPVDNA+ OSCC with absent/weak HLA class I responded equally well when treated with induction-chemo-radiotherapy (CRT) or radiotherapy (RT) alone. In patients with HPVDNA- OSCC, high HLA class I/class II expression correlated in general to a better clinical outcome. p16(INK4a) overexpression correlated to a better clinical outcome in HPVDNA+ OSCC. Absence of HLA class I intensity in HPVDNA+ OSCC suggests a very high survival independent of treatment and could possibly be used clinically to select patients for randomized trials de-escalating therapy.