The purpose of this study was to evaluate if HPV status serves as an independent predictor of early and late dysphagia outcomes when considered alongside standard patient characteristics and dose metrics for head and neck cancer patients treated with radiotherapy.
Methods and materials
The age, sex, smoking history, cancer type (oropharyngeal vs non-oropharyngeal), HPV status, and early and late dysphagia outcomes were obtained for 99 retrospective head and neck cancer patients treated at our clinic with radiotherapy. Additionally for each patient, the mean radiation dose to the pharynx, superior/middle/inferior pharyngeal constrictor muscles, and cricopharyngeus was calculated. The predictive power of these clinical characteristics and radiation metrics was evaluated using chi-square tests for categorical variables and t-tests for continuous variables. Then multi-variate logistic models were built for each outcome using a single dose metric at a time, and either HPV status, cancer type, or both. Multi-variate models were built using both top-down and bottom-up technique to establish the most predictive independent covariates.
In the univariate analysis for early dysphagia, cancer type (p = 0.04) and four dose metrics (p ≤ 0.02) were significantly associated with outcome, while for late dysphagia, only cancer type (p = 0.04) was associated with outcome. In the multivariate analysis for early dysphagia, cancer type, smoking history, and mean dose to the five structures were consistently selected as covariates. For late dysphagia, either HPV status or cancer type was selected in each model and the mean dose to the cricopharyngeus was selected in one model.
While HPV is a known contributing factor for tumor prognosis in oropharyngeal cancers, its role in normal tissue toxicities for head and neck cancers has not previously been evaluated. Our results indicate having an oropharyngeal cancer may increase a patient’s risk of high-grade early and late dysphagia while HPV status was seldom selected.