Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the causative agents of virtually all cervical carcinomas. Nevertheless, a small proportion of cervical cancer are negative for HPV, although the significance of this finding remains unclear. We aimed to provide insight into the differential clinico-pathological characteristics of this unusual subset of HPV-negative cervical cancer. We performed HPV-DNA detection using a highly sensitive PCR test (SPF10) and p16 immunostaining in 214 cervical carcinomas specimens from women treated at the Gynecological Oncology Unit of the Hospital Clinic (Barcelona, Spain) from 2012 to 2015. The clinical and pathological characteristics, including disease-free survival and overall survival, of HPV-negative and -positive cervical carcinomas were compared. Twenty-one out of 214 tumors (10%) were negative for HPV DNA. HPV-negative tumors were more frequently of the non-squamous type (9/21, 43% vs. 37/193, 19%; p < 0.01) and showed negative p16 staining (9/21; 43% vs. 7/193; 4%; p < 0.01). HPV-negative tumors were more frequently diagnosed at advanced FIGO stage (19/21, 91% vs. 110/193, 57%; p < 0.01) and more frequently had lymph node metastases (14/21, 67% vs. 69/193, 36%; p < 0.01). Patients with HPV-negative cervical cancer had a significantly worse disease-free survival (59.8 months, 95% confidence interval 32.0–87.6 vs. 132.2 months, 95% confidence interval 118.6–145.8; p < 0.01) and overall survival (77.0 months, 95% confidence interval 47.2–106.8 vs. 153.8 months, 95% confidence interval 142.0–165.6; p = 0.01) than women with HPV-positive tumors. However, only advanced FIGO stage and lymph node metastases remained associated with a poor disease-free survival and overall survival on multivariate analysis. In conclusion, our results suggest that a low percentage of cervical cancer arise via an HPV-independent pathway. These HPV-negative tumors are diagnosed at advanced stages, show higher prevalence of lymph nodes metastases and have an impaired prognosis.
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Senior authorship: Marta del Pino, Jaume Ordi.
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We thank Donna Pringle for the English revision of the article.
This research was funded in part by Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ICSIII)-Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria, and ERDF “One Way to Europe” (PI17/00772).