EGFR, p16, HPV titer, Bcl-xL and p53, sex, and smoking as indicators of response to therapy and survival in oropharyngeal cancer

Bhavna Kumar, Kitrina G. Cordell, Julia S. Lee, Francis P. Worden, Mark E. Prince, Huong H. Tran, Gregory T. Wolf, Susan G. Urba, Douglas B. Chepeha, Theodoros N. Teknos, Avraham Eisbruch, Christina I. Tsien, Jeremy M.G. Taylor, Nisha J. D'Silva, Kun Yang, David M. Kurnit, Joshua A. Bauer, Carol R. Bradford, Thomas E. Carey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

499 Scopus citations


Purpose: To prospectively identify markers of response to therapy and outcome in an organ-sparing trial for advanced oropharyngeal cancer. Patients and Methods: Pretreatment biopsies were examined for expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), p16, Bcl-xL, and p53 as well as for p53 mutation. These markers were assessed for association with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), response to therapy, and survival. Patient variables included smoking history, sex, age, primary site, tumor stage, and nodal status. Results: EGFR expression was inversely associated with response to induction chemotherapy (IC) (P = .01), chemotherapy/radiotherapy (CRT; P = .055), overall survival (OS; P = .001), and disease-specific survival (DSS; P = .002) and was directly associated with current smoking (P = .04), female sex (P = .053), and lower HPV titer (P = .03). HPV titer was significantly associated with p16 expression (P < .0001); p16 was significantly associated with response to IC (P = .008), CRT (P = .009), OS (P = .001), and DSS (P = .003). As combined markers, lower HPV titer and high EGFR expression were associated with worse OS (ρEGFR = 0.008; ρHPV = 0.03) and DSS (ρEGFR = 0.01; ρHPV = 0.016). In 36 of 42 biopsies, p53 was wild-type, and only one HPV-positive tumor had mutant p53. The combination of low p53 and high Bcl-xL expression was associated with poor OS (P = .005) and DSS (P = .002). Conclusion : Low EGFR and high p16 (or higher HPV titer) expression are markers of good response to organ-sparing therapy and outcome, whereas high EGFR expression, combined low p53/high Bcl-xL expression, female sex, and smoking are associated with a poor outcome. Smoking cessation and strategies to target EGFR and Bcl-xL are important adjuncts to the treatment of oropharyngeal cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3128-3137
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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