An Imaging Biomarker of Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes to Risk-Stratify Patients With HPV-Associated Oropharyngeal Cancer

Germán Corredor, Paula Toro, Can Koyuncu, Cheng Lu, Christina Buzzy, Kaustav Bera, Pingfu Fu, Mitra Mehrad, Kim A. Ely, Mojgan Mokhtari, Kailin Yang, Deborah Chute, David J. Adelstein, Lester D.R. Thompson, Justin A. Bishop, Farhoud Faraji, Wade Thorstad, Patricia Castro, Vlad Sandulache, Shlomo A. KoyfmanJames S. Lewis, Anant Madabhushi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) has excellent control rates compared to nonvirally associated OPSCC. Multiple trials are actively testing whether de-escalation of treatment intensity for these patients can maintain oncologic equipoise while reducing treatment-related toxicity. We have developed OP-TIL, a biomarker that characterizes the spatial interplay between tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and surrounding cells in histology images. Herein, we sought to test whether OP-TIL can segregate stage I HPV-associated OPSCC patients into low-risk and high-risk groups and aid in patient selection for de-escalation clinical trials. Methods: Association between OP-TIL and patient outcome was explored on whole slide hematoxylin and eosin images from 439 stage I HPV-associated OPSCC patients across 6 institutional cohorts. One institutional cohort (n = 94) was used to identify the most prognostic features and train a Cox regression model to predict risk of recurrence and death. Survival analysis was used to validate the algorithm as a biomarker of recurrence or death in the remaining 5 cohorts (n = 345). All statistical tests were 2-sided. Results: OP-TIL separated stage I HPV-associated OPSCC patients with 30 or less pack-year smoking history into low-risk (2-year disease-free survival [DFS] = 94.2%; 5-year DFS = 88.4%) and high-risk (2-year DFS = 82.5%; 5-year DFS = 74.2%) groups (hazard ratio = 2.56, 95% confidence interval = 1.52 to 4.32; P <. 001), even after adjusting for age, smoking status, T and N classification, and treatment modality on multivariate analysis for DFS (hazard ratio = 2.27, 95% confidence interval = 1.32 to 3.94; P =. 003). Conclusions: OP-TIL can identify stage I HPV-associated OPSCC patients likely to be poor candidates for treatment de-escalation. Following validation on previously completed multi-institutional clinical trials, OP-TIL has the potential to be a biomarker, beyond clinical stage and HPV status, that can be used clinically to optimize patient selection for de-escalation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-617
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


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