Patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) have better responses to radiotherapy and higher overall survival rates than do patients with HPV-negative HNSCC, but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are unknown. p16 is used as a surrogate marker for HPV infection. Our goal was to examine the role of p16 in HPVrelated favorable treatment outcomes and to investigate the mechanisms by which p16 may regulate radiosensitivity. HNSCC cells and xenografts (HPV/p16-positive and -negative) were used. p16-overexpressing and small hairpin RNA-knockdown cells were generated, and the effect of p16 on radiosensitivity was determined by clonogenic cell survival and tumor growth delay assays. DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) were assessed by immunofluorescence analysis of 53BP1 foci; DSB levels were determined by neutral comet assay; western blotting was used to evaluate protein changes; changes in protein half-life were tested with a cycloheximide assay; gene expression was examined by real-time polymerase chain reaction; and data from The Cancer Genome Atlas HNSCC project were analyzed. p16 overexpression led to downregulation of TRIP12, which in turn led to increased RNF168 levels, repressed DNA damage repair (DDR), increased 53BP1 foci and enhanced radioresponsiveness. Inhibition of TRIP12 expression further led to radiosensitization, and overexpression of TRIP12 was associated with poor survival in patients with HPVpositive HNSCC. These findings reveal that p16 participates in radiosensitization through influencing DDR and support the rationale of blocking TRIP12 to improve radiotherapy outcomes.