Management of Recurrent and Metastatic HPV-Positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma after Transoral Robotic Surgery

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To describe management and oncologic outcomes for patients who develop locoregional recurrence (LRR) or distant metastasis (DM) following transoral robotic surgery for human papilloma virus (HPV)–positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC).

Study Design

Case series with chart review.


Tertiary care referral center.

Subjects and Methods

A total of 286 patients with HPV-positive OPSCC who underwent transoral robotic surgery–based treatment from May 2007 to May 2015.


Of 286 patients (12.2%), 35 met inclusion criteria. Of these, 19 experienced an LRR and 16 developed a DM; 2 patients with LRR subsequently developed DM. In those patients with an LRR, 79% had T1/T2 tumors, and 47% had N0/N1 nodal disease, compared with 75% and 6% in the DM group, respectively. The median time to LRR or DM was 0.6 years (interquartile range [IQR], 0.4-1.0) and 1.8 years (IQR, 1.0-2.1), respectively. Salvage treatment with intent to cure was attempted in 23 patients (16 LRR, 7 DM). The median time from LRR or DM to last follow-up for the 18 patients who were still alive after salvage was 1.9 years (IQR, 0.4-3.8; range, 7 days–6.2 years). Estimated cancer-specific survival rates at 3 years following intent-to-cure treatment were 63% (95% CI, 39-100; number still at risk, 5) in the LRR group and 100% (95% CI, 100-100; number still at risk, 2) in the DM group.


Overall, LRR and DM for HPV-positive OPSCC following transoral robotic surgery–based therapy are infrequent. In our subset of patients who underwent intent-to-cure treatment, cancer-specific survival rates were favorable. Therefore, aggressive salvage treatment for LRR and DM for HPV-positive OPSCC should be recommended for appropriate candidates.

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