(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – African Americans infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) have greater chance of surviving throat cancer than HPV-negative individuals, according to a team of researchers of the Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI. This conclusion is based on an abstract entitled “Improved Survival with HPV among African Americans with Oropharygeal Cancer,” which was presented at the 8th International Conference on Head & Neck Cancer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The investigators based the current study on recent evidence that African American patients with oropharyngeal cancer (OPSCC) have a lower HPV prevalence rate than Caucasian Americans with corresponding poorer outcomes. However, those studies were limited by the lack of representation of HPV-positive AA patients. Thus the aim of this study was to “compare survival outcomes in HPV-positive and HPV-negative African Americans with OPSCC, in a retrospective primary OPSCC cohort with 42% African Americans.”

According to the investigators, 70 patients tested HPV negative (HPV-neg) and 46 tested HPV positive (HPV-pos). African Americans in the study demonstrated a lower prevalence than Caucasian Americans (27% and 49% respectively, P=0.035). HPV-pos patients were more likely to be diagnosed with late stage OPSCC (OR=4.21, P=0.036) than patients who are HPV-neg. Additionally, HPV-neg patients had 4.8 times the risk of death as HPV-pos patients. “Overall, there was significantly poorer survival for HPV-neg African Americans vs HPV-pos African Americans (P=0.049); HPV-pos Caucasian Americans (P≤0.001); and HPV-neg Caucasian Americans (P=0.021). 

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The investigators concluded: “HPV has a substantial impact on overall survival in African American OPSCC. HPV-neg African Americans not only had poorer survival than HPV-pos African Americans, but also did worse than both HPV-pos Caucasian Americans and HPV-neg Caucasian Americans.”