Work from the Faden Lab demonstrates the clinical, genomic and viromic landscape of patients with multiple HPV+ head and neck cancers

October 21, 2020

The incidence of HPV related head and neck cancers (HPV+ HNC) is increasing significantly in the United States. Concomitantly, we are now seeing patients present with, or develop, multiple HPV+ HNCs, which previously was not a clinical scenario that was thought to occur. This year The Faden Lab, along with colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and the National Cancer Institute published by far most comprehensive analysis of patients with multiple HPV+ HNCs demonstrating that at least 1-3% of all HPV+HNC patients will have multiple cancers. This number is felt to likely be an underestimation based on the way the data is reported. Because of this finding, the Faden lab, in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Richmon (Mass Ear and Ear), are now prospectively evaluating patients finding the rate of multiple primaries is likely closer to 4 or 5%. This clinical scenario presents new and challenging questions related to how these patients should be treated. To better understand why this is occurring, the same multi-institutional team then conducted a genomic study analyzing both paired tumors from a cohort of patients with multiple HPV+ HNCs showing for the first time that these tumors are caused by the exact same HPV isolate yet possess very different types of DNA and RNA alterations. Further, the tumors develop through very different processes and pathways, challenging existing theories on how HPV+HNCs evolve. This work can be found here, in Carcinogenesis.