The American journal of surgical pathology

Performance of a Branch Chain RNA In Situ Hybridization Assay for the Detection of High-risk Human Papillomavirus in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

PMID 26426378


High-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) is a major etiologic agent in a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), and its recognition has prognostic and predictive implications. The availability of a sensitive and specific test to assess HR-HPV status is limited. We evaluate an RNA in situ hybridization (ISH) method using branch chain technology to detect HR-HPV and compare its results with DNA ISH, p16 immunohistochemistry, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Tissue sections from 54 patients were stained with a manual RNA ISH assay (ViewRNA), which detects 14 HR-HPV types, an automated DNA ISH assay, and p16 immunohistochemistry. Most cases (83%, n=45) were also tested on an automated platform for 14 HR-HPV types and 1 limited to HPV 16/18. PCR was performed in all cases and was successful in 93% (n=50). The RNA ISH assay produced results in 96% of the cases with strong signals and was easily interpreted. HR-HPV was detected in more cases (63%, n=34) by RNA ISH than by DNA ISH (39%, n=21). Compared with PCR, both ISH platforms were 94% specific. RNA ISH was more sensitive (91%) than DNA ISH (65%), and RNA ISH correlated more strongly with p16 immunostaining. HPV 16 represented 89% of HR-HPV detected. The cocktail HPV 16/18 platform was concordant with the pooled HR-HPV assay in all expected cases. The automated assay demonstrated high concordance (96%) with the manual version, showed decreased background, and should allow for easy implementation into the workflow of the diagnostic pathology laboratory.