Detection and Genotype of High-Risk Human Papillomavirus in Fine-Needle Aspirates of Patients With Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma Is Helpful in Determining Tumor Origin

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Recent studies have shown that human papillomavirus (HPV) is associated with a certain subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)—namely, those arising in the oropharynx. The objective of this study is to determine the efficacy, detection, and genotype of high-risk (HR) HPV using the Roche cobas 4800 system (Roche Molecular System, Pleasanton, CA).


Forty-two fine-needle aspirate (FNA) specimens from 37 patients with cervical (n = 36) or mediastinal (n = 5) lymphadenopathy or a left parapharyngeal mass (n =1) were included in this prospective study. HR-HPV testing was performed on residual FNA material after direct smear preparation and, if positive, was further delineated into HPV 16/18 genotypes using the Roche cobas 4800 system. Follow-up included review of histologic material and/or electronic health records.


Among those HNSCCs that were positive for HR-HPV, 18 (100%) of 18 originated from the oropharynx, whereas only two (13%) of 15 HR-HPV–negative HNSCCs originated from the oropharynx (χ2 test, P < .05). p16 immunohistochemical assay and HPV 16 in situ hybridization on corresponding histologic specimens were concordant with cytologic HR-HPV results.


HR-HPV detection and genotyping can be performed on lymph node FNAs with metastatic squamous cell carcinoma using the Roche cobas 4800 system. The presence of HR-HPV and/or HPV 16 is a reliable indicator of the metastatic squamous cell carcinoma originating from the oropharynx.

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