‘Tumour Infiltrating Lymphocytes and Programmed Cell Death Ligand-1 as Prognostic Indicators in Human Papillomavirus Associated Oropharyngeal Cancer’ Dr. Grace O’Flanagan

Annual Grant Scheme 2020

It is well established that human papilloma virus (HPV) associated oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) carries a favourable prognosis compared to non-HPV associated OPC. This is reflected in the most recent (8th) edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging manual wherein HPV+OPC has a distinct TNM classification. Thus there exists potential for less intense treatment regimens for HPV+OPC; reducing associated morbidity while maintaining efficacy. However, a minority of HPV+OPC patients still have a poor prognosis. Therefore, there is a need for further prognostic indicators within the HPV+ cohort.

Tumour infiltrating T-lymphocytes (TILs) have been identified in recent studies as potential prognostic biomarkers for HPV+OPC. In this respect, TILs show promise in informing decision making and improving patient treatment but further research is needed to ensure this is a robust prognostic indicator.

Similarly, the presence of Programmed Death Ligand-1 (PD-L1), a cell surface protein that can be highly expressed on neoplastic cells, has correlated with improved survival in HPV+OPC patients in recent studies. However, as with TILs, further research is required to ensure its validity in clinical use.

Hence, this project draws on novel research and the addition of our data will help to further the understanding of HPV+OPC. Ultimately, this will enable improved treatment and outcomes for patients with HPV+OPC.

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