Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

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.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Radiol

Publication Date





Chemoradiotherapy, Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation, Female, Head and Neck Neoplasms, Humans, Male, Papillomavirus Infections, Prognosis, Radiation Tolerance, Radiotherapy, Radiotherapy Dosage, Risk Assessment, Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck, Survival Analysis, Treatment Outcome, Tumor Hypoxia