British journal of cancer

Epithelial to mesenchymal transition and HPV infection in squamous cell oropharyngeal carcinomas: the papillophar study.

PMID 28072763


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is recognised as aetiological factor of carcinogenesis in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OPC). HPV-related OPC respond better to treatments and have a significantly favourable outcome. Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) implicated in tumour invasion, is a hallmark of a poor prognosis in carcinomas. We have studied the relationship of EMT markers (E-cadherin, β-catenin and vimentin) with HPV infection (DNA and E6/E7 mRNA detection), p16(INK4a) expression and survival outcomes in a cohort of 296 patients with OPC. Among the 296 OPSSC, 26% were HPV positive, 20.3% had overt EMT (>25% of vimentin positive tumour cells). Lower E-cadherin expression was associated with a higher risk of distant metastasis in univariate (P=0.0110) and multivariate analyses (hazard ratios (HR)=6.86 (1.98; 23.84)). Vimentin expression tends towards worse metastasis-free survival (MFS; HR=2.53 (1.00; 6.41)) and was an independent prognostic factor of progression-free survival (HR=1.55 (1.03; 2.34)). There was a non significant association of EMT with HPV status. This may be explained by a mixed subpopulation of patients HPV positive with associated risk factors (HPV, tobacco and alcohol). Thus, the detection of EMT in OPC represents another reliable approach in the prognosis and the management of OPC whatever their HPV status.