In this prospective cohort study, we compared the performance of human papillomavirus (HPV) mRNA and DNA testing of women with atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US) during cervical cancer screening. Using a nationwide Danish pathology register, we identified women aged 30–65 years with ASC-US during 2005–2011 who were tested for HPV16/18/31/33/45 mRNA using PreTect HPV-Proofer (n = 3,226) or for high-risk HPV (hrHPV) DNA using Hybrid Capture 2 (HC2) (n = 9,405) or Linear Array HPV-Genotyping test (LA) (n = 1,533). Women with ≥1 subsequent examination in the register (n = 13,729) were followed for up to 9.5 years for high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cancer. After 3 years' follow-up, mRNA testing had higher specificity for CIN3 or worse (CIN3+) than HC2 testing (88.1% [95% confidence interval (CI): 86.8–89.6%] versus 59.3% [95% CI: 58.1–60.4%]) and higher positive predictive value (PPV) (38.2% [95% CI: 33.8%–43.1%] versus 19.5% [95% CI: 17.8–20.9%]). However, the sensitivity of mRNA testing was lower than that of HC2 testing (66.7% [95% CI: 59.3–74.5%] versus 97.0% [95% CI: 95.5–98.4%]), and women testing mRNA negative had higher 3-year risk for CIN3+ than those testing HC2 negative (3.2% [95% CI: 2.2–4.2%] versus 0.5% [95% CI: 0.3–0.7%]). Patterns were similar after 18 months and 5 years'; follow-up; for CIN2+ and cancer as outcomes; across all age groups; and when comparing mRNA testing to hrHPV DNA testing using LA. In conclusion, the HPV16/18/31/33/45 mRNA test is not optimal for ASC-US triage due to its low sensitivity and the substantial risk for precancer following a negative test.What's new?
Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA in women with atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US) is widely implemented in cervical cancer screening, despite suboptimal specificity. An emerging alternative is HPV mRNA testing, though few prospective studies have compared HPV mRNA and DNA testing for ASC-US triage. Here, in a cohort of 13,729 women, a commercial mRNA test for five different HPV types was found to be more specific but far less sensitive for high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia than widely used HPV DNA tests. The authors conclude that five-type HPV mRNA testing is not optimal for ASC-US triage.