HPV, hypoxia and radiation response in head and neck cancer.
Göttgens E-L., Ostheimer C., Span PN., Bussink J., Hammond EM.
Over the last decades, the incidence of human papilloma virus (HPV) positive head and neck squamous-cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has significantly increased. Infection with high-risk HPV types drives tumourigenesis through expression of the oncoproteins E6 and E7. Currently, the primary treatment of HNSCC consists of radiotherapy, often combined with platinum-based chemotherapeutics. One of the common features of HNSCC is the occurrence of tumour hypoxia, which impairs the efficacy of radiotherapy and is a negative prognostic factor. Therefore, it is important to detect and quantify the severity of hypoxia, as well as develop strategies to specifically target hypoxic tumours. HPV-positive tumours are remarkably radiosensitive compared to HPV-negative tumours and consequently the HPV-positive patients have a better prognosis. This provides an opportunity to elucidate mechanisms of radiation sensitivity, which may reveal targets for improved therapy for HPV-negative head and neck cancers. In this review, we will discuss the differences between HPV-positive and HPV-negative head and neck tumours and methods of hypoxia detection and targeting in these disease types. Particular emphasis will be placed on the mechanisms by which HPV infection impacts radiosensitivity.