The oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OPSCC) are a molecular and clinically heterogeneous group of
cancer, not yet fully characterized. The most important risk factors for OPSCC are tobacco and alcohol, however, in the
last fifteen years, HPV-positive OPSCC are apparently growing, principally in young male people. It is highly probable
that these cases represent a new and particular OPSCC subgroup. A reclassification of OPSCC based in part on the participation
of high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) as an etiological factor is likely to be proposed. In addition to the association
with HPV, other biomarkers have been added to better understand the OPSCC biological behavior and response
to oncologic treatment, including TP53 genotypes or changes in chromosome stability. Of particular interest is the tumor
suppressor p16INK4, as its expression levels can function as a surrogate biomarker in the diagnosis of HPV-positive
OPSCC. p16INK4 overexpression in combination with the demonstration of HPV active infection, according to most
authors may predict a good prognosis, thus p16INK4 has been proposed (and patented) as a therapeutic target in those cancers
overexpressing it. This review discusses the recent patents focusing on the p16INK4 diagnostic and prognostic value as
well as its possible therapeutic activity.
Keywords: Biomarker, expression, head and neck cancer, oropharyngeal, prognosis, p16.
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