Human papillomavirus testing in head and neck carcinomas guideline from the college of American pathologists

James S. Lewis*, Beth Beadle, Justin A. Bishop, Rebecca D. Chernock, Carol Colasacco, Christina Lacchetti, Joel Todd Moncur, James W. Rocco, Mary R. Schwartz, Raja R. Seethala, Nicole E. Thomas, William H. Westra, William C. Faquin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

305 Scopus citations


Context.—Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a major cause of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas, and HPV (and/or surrogate marker p16) status has emerged as a prognostic marker that significantly impacts clinical management. There is no current consensus on when to test oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas for HPV/p16 or on which tests to choose. Objective.—To develop evidence-based recommendations for the testing, application, interpretation, and reporting of HPV and surrogate marker tests in head and neck carcinomas. Design.—The College of American Pathologists convened a panel of experts in head and neck and molecular pathology, as well as surgical, medical, and radiation oncology, to develop recommendations. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to address 6 key questions. Final recommendations were derived from strength of evidence, open comment period feedback, and expert panel consensus. Results.—The major recommendations include (1) testing newly diagnosed oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma patients for high-risk HPV, either from the primary tumor or from cervical nodal metastases, using p16 immunohistochemistry with a 70% nuclear and cytoplasmic staining cutoff, and (2) not routinely testing nonsquamous oropharyngeal carcinomas or nonoropharyngeal carcinomas for HPV. Pathologists are to report tumors as HPV positive or p16 positive. Guidelines are provided for testing cytologic samples and handling of locoregional and distant recurrence specimens. Conclusions.—Based on the systematic review and on expert panel consensus, high-risk HPV testing is recommended for all new oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma patients, but not routinely recommended for other head and neck carcinomas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-597
Number of pages39
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


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