Human papillomavirus (HPV) is associated with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas. Persistent viral infection is postulated to lead to carcinogenesis, although infection of benign adjacent epithelium is not typically observed. It is known that immune evasive tumor cells can provide an ideal niche for a virus. The B7-H1/PD-1 cosignaling pathway plays an important role in viral immune evasion by rendering CD8+ cytotoxic T cells anergic. We hypothesized that HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas express B7-H1 as a mechanism for immune evasion. A tissue microarray was utilized, for which HPV E6/E7 mRNA by in situ hybridization was previously performed. Immunohistochemistry was performed to detect B7-H1 and staining was characterized by pattern, distribution, and intensity. B7-H1 was expressed by 84 of the 181 (46. 4 %) cases. Both tumor cell membranous and cytoplasmic expression were present and cytoplasmic expression was identified in some peritumoral lymphocytes. Expression was analyzed in several different ways and then considered binarily as positive versus negative. Tumors expressing B7-H1 were more likely to be HPV positive (49. 2 vs. 34. 1 %, p = 0. 08). B7-H1 expression showed no correlation with disease recurrence in the entire cohort (OR = 1. 09, p = 0. 66), HPV positive cohort (OR = 0. 80, p = 0. 69) or HPV negative cohort (OR = 2. 02, p = 0. 22). However, B7-H1 expression intensity did correlate with the development of distant metastasis (p = 0. 03), and B7-H1 intensity of 3+ (versus all other staining) showed a strong trend towards distant metastasis in the HPV positive (OR = 6. 67, p = 0. 13) and HPV negative (OR = 9. 0, p = 0. 13) cohorts. There was no correlation between B7-H1 expression and patient survival for any of the different ways in which staining was characterized, whether binarily, by distribution, intensity, or combined scores. B7-H1 is expressed in the majority of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas with transcriptionally-active HPV. This suggests that B7-H1 expression by tumor cells may play a role in harboring persistent HPV infection.
- Human papillomavirus
- Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma