Circulating human papillomavirus DNA detection in Barrett's dysplasia and esophageal adenocarcinoma

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Journal Article
Diseases of the esophagus : official journal of the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus, 2019, 32 (12)
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© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: There is evidence to suggest that human papillomaviruses (HPV) are associated with Barrett's dysplasia and esophageal adenocarcinoma. In other HPV-linked cancers such as cervical and oropharyngeal cancer, circulating HPV DNA is a potential biomarker to assist in tumor diagnosis and management. This study aimed to determine whether circulating HPV DNA was detectable in patients with Barrett's dysplasia and esophageal adenocarcinoma, and if so, whether there is any correlation with esophageal tissue HPV status. Plasma from 138 patients representing esophageal adenocarcinoma (N = 41), Barrett's dysplasia (N = 48) and hospital controls (N = 49) were analyzed for the presence of circulating HPV DNA using droplet-digital PCR targeting the E7 gene of HPV types 16 and 18. Circulating HPV DNA was detected in 11/138 (8.0%) study subjects including 1/49 (2.0%) hospital controls, 4/48 (8.3%) Barrett's dysplasia patients, and 6/41 (14.6%) esophageal adenocarcinoma patients. Detection of circulating HPV DNA was higher in patients with HPV-positive esophageal tissue (6/35, 17.1%) compared to those with HPV-negative specimens (5/103; 4.9%) (OR = 4.06; 95% CI 1.15-14.25; P = 0.020). The highest rates of detection occurred in esophageal adenocarcinoma patients, particularly those with invasive tumors that had breached the esophageal submucosa, had regional lymph node involvement or metastatic disease. Circulating HPV DNA was detectable in a subset of Barrett's dysplasia and esophageal adenocarcinoma patients. Detection was associated with tissue HPV positivity and possibly disease severity.
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