Proving HPV Cause

Last Modified: February 5, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Can HPV be proven as the cause of a non-cervical cancer- if so, how?


Harry Quon, MD, MS (CRM), Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

It comes from many studies of large populations or what we call epidemiologic studies. These show consistent relationships and that the relationships are strong between risk factors that are common to the cervix cancer story such as multiple sexual partners and sexual practice at a young age. There are also studies showing HPV infection in non-cervical cancers. Lastly, there are now clinical studies that have treated oropharynx cancers and have taken tissue samples from the cancer and tested to see if there is evidence of HPV infection in the cancer. Many oropharynx cancers show this. Even more significant is that the results of the treatment, show that oropharynx cancers with HPV do better than non-HPV oropharynx cancers. The story with the HPV associated oropharynx cancers isn't that straight forward as those that also get exposed the adverse effects of tobacco when there is infection with a cancer causing HPV virus behave more aggressively and their results from treatment are in the middle.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, How Much Do You Know About HPV?. View the entire transcript here.