Circulating Tumor HPV DNA for Surveillance of HPV-Positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Narrative Review

Krystle A. Lang Kuhs, J. Chad Brenner, F. Chris Holsinger, Eleni M. Rettig

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Importance: Human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma has an overall favorable prognosis, yet a subset of patients will experience devastating disease recurrence. Current surveillance standards for detection of recurrent disease are imperfect. There is growing interest in improving detection of recurrent disease through the use of plasma-based assays able to detect circulating tumor HPV DNA. Observations: Although most circulating tumor HPV DNA assays remain in the research domain, the circulating tumor tissue-modified viral HPV DNA assay became commercially available in the United States in early 2020 and has been increasingly used in the clinical setting. With the rapidly increasing incidence of HPV-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma and concomitant expansion of biomarker capabilities for this disease, it is critical to reexamine current posttreatment surveillance practices and to determine whether emerging technologies may be used to improve outcomes for a growing survivor population. However, caution is advised; it is not yet known whether biomarker-based surveillance is truly beneficial, and as is true with any intervention, it has the capacity to cause harm. Conclusions and Relevance: Using Margaret Pepe's classic 5 phases of biomarker development for early detection of cancer as a framework, this article reviews the current state of knowledge, highlights existing knowledge gaps, and suggests research that should be prioritized to understand the association between biomarker-based surveillance and patient outcomes. Specific attention is paid to the commercially available tumor tissue-modified viral HPV DNA assay, given its increasing clinical use. This review may serve as a road map for future research and a guide for clinicians considering its adoption in practice. Enrollment of patients into clinical trials incorporating biomarker-based surveillance should be prioritized..

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1716-1724
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA Oncology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 21 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Circulating Tumor HPV DNA for Surveillance of HPV-Positive Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Narrative Review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this