Cytopathologic characteristics of HPV-related small cell carcinoma of the oropharynx

Derek B. Allison, Lisa Rooper, Sara Mustafa, Zahra Maleki, Paul E. Wakely, Syed Z Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV)–related squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC) of the oropharynx is an epidemiologically and clinically distinct form of SqCC that is associated with an improved prognosis. However, HPV-related small cell carcinoma of the oropharynx is a rare and newly described variant that is associated with aggressive clinical behavior and poor outcomes. To date, fewer than 2 dozen reports of this entity exist in the literature, and there is no discussion of cytopathologic features. This article reports 6 cases and discusses the salient cytomorphologic findings, ancillary studies, and challenges when this entity is encountered. Methods: Anatomic pathology archives were searched to identify patients with a diagnosis of HPV-related small cell carcinoma of the oropharynx. Medical records were reviewed to document the following: age, sex, smoking status, other relevant clinical history, primary location, treatment, and clinical outcome. Both p16 and high-risk HPV in situ hybridization (ISH) studies were positive in at least 1 specimen from each patient. The pathologic diagnoses, cytomorphologic characteristics, immunocytochemical stains, and HPV ISH studies were reviewed and recorded for all available cases. Results: Six patients with 11 cytopathology specimens of HPV-related small cell carcinoma of the oropharynx were identified. The mean age was 61.3 years, and all patients died with widely metastatic disease (mean, 23 months; range, 12-48 months). Mixed small cell carcinoma and SqCC components were present in half of the cases. Conclusions: The identification of a small cell component can be reliably performed with cytology preparations and is crucial because this (and not the HPV status) determines the prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer cytopathology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

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Keywords

  • cytopathology
  • head and neck cancer
  • human papillomavirus
  • small cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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