Automated RNA In Situ Hybridization for 18 High Risk Human Papilloma Viruses in Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck: Comparison With p16 Immunohistochemistry

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Detection of human papilloma virus (HPV)–related head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is important, as HPV-associated HNSCCs respond better to therapy. The RNAscope HPV-test is a novel RNA in situ hybridization (ISH) technique which strongly stains transcripts of E6 and E7 mRNA in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue, with the potential to replace the indirect immunohistochemical (IHC) marker for p16 protein. A direct clinical comparison between p16 IHC and an automated RNA ISH using 18 probes has not been established. Samples from 27 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded HNSCC cases from the Emory University Hospital archives were stained using 18 individual RNA ISH probes for high-risk HPV (RNAscope 2.5 LS Probe ) on a Leica autostainer (Buffalo Grove, IL) and were compared with p16 IHC. Two pathologists reviewed and reached a consensus on all interpretations. The RNAscope technique was positive in 89% (24/27) and the p16 IHC was positive in 78% (21/27). The RNAscope was negative in 11.1% of samples (3/27) and the p16 IHC–negative in 22.2% (6/27). The RNA ISH detected 100% of the p16-positive IHC-stained slides and had a concordance of 88.9% (24/27). This easy to interpret automated staining method for 18 high-risk HPV genotypes is a feasible replacement for the indirect p16 IHC method.

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