Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, but it is now known to cause approximately 75% of oropharyngeal carcinomas (OPCs) of the tonsil and base of the tongue. The prevalence of HPV-positive OPC is predicted to exceed the prevalence of HPV-positive cervical cancers this year.
Research Question: What is the causal relationship between the presence of HPV-DNA in the tonsils and OPC?
We will utilize histological and immunofluorescent techniques to elucidate the site of HPV infection within the tonsil and evaluate whether the virus is able to undergo its full lifecycle within the tissues. The expression of potential biomarkers, believed to be prognostic indicators for the development of HPV-mediated disease, within HPV-positive and HPV-negative pre-cancerous and cancerous tissues will be assessed. Therefore, this project will help characterize the multi-step process of HPV infection to OPC specifically within the tissues in which HPV infections establish and cancer develops in the tonsil.
This research study will begin to characterize the pathogenesis of HPV-mediated oropharyngeal cancer. Describing key changes in the expression of biomarker targets within infected tonsils and cancerous tissues that may form the clinical prognosis of HPV-OPC and influence treatment strategies. Overall, the innovative approaches to biomarker detection will advance this area of research.