Publication Details

Satgunaseelan, L., Chia, N., Suh, H., Virk, S., Ashford, B., Lum, T., Ranson, M., Clark, J. & Gupta, R. (2017). p16 expression in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck is not associated with integration of high risk HPV DNA or prognosis. Pathology, 49 (5), 494-498.


Head and neck cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (HNcSCC) can present with cervical metastases without an obvious primary. Immunohistochemistry for p16 is established as a surrogate marker of human papillomavirus (HPV) in oropharyngeal cancer. p16 expression in HNcSCC needs to be elucidated to determine its utility in predicting the primary site. The aim of this study was to evaluate the rate of p16 expression in HNcSCC and its association with prognostic factors and survival. p16 immunohistochemistry was performed on 166 patients with high risk HNcSCC (2000-2013) following histopathology review. Chromogenic in situ hybridisation (CISH) for HPV was performed. Fifty-three (31.9%) cases showed strong, diffuse nuclear and cytoplasmic p16 expression including 14 (41%) non-metastatic and 39 (29.5%) metastatic tumours (p = 0.21). HPV CISH was negative in all cases. p16 expression significantly increased with poorer differentiation (p = 0.033), but was not associated with size (p = 0.30), depth of invasion (p = 0.94), lymphovascular invasion (p = 0.31), perineural invasion (p = 0.69), keratinisation (p = 0.99), number of involved nodes (p = 0.64), extranodal extension (p = 0.59) or survival. Nearly 32% of HNcSCCs, particularly poorly differentiated HNcSCCs, show p16 expression. A primary HNcSCC should be considered in p16 positive neck node metastases in regions with high prevalence of HNcSCC. p16 expression is not associated with improved survival in HNcSCC.

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