Germline determinants of humoral immune response to HPV-16 protect against oropharyngeal cancer

A. Ferreiro-Iglesias*, J.D. McKay, N. Brenner, S. Virani, C. Lesseur, V. Gaborieau, A.R. Ness, R.J. Hung, G. Liu, B. Diergaarde, A.F. Olshan, N. Hayes, M.C. Weissler, L. Schroeder, N. Bender, M. Pawlita, S. Thomas, M. Pring, T. Dudding, B. KanterewiczR. Ferris, Y. Brhane, V. Diez-Obrero, M. Milojevic, K. Smith-Byrne, D. Mariosa, M.J. Johansson, R. Herrero, S. Boccia, G. Cadoni, M. Lacko, I. Holcatova, W. Ahrens, P. Lagiou, A. Lagiou, J. Polesel, L. Simonato, F. Merletti, C.M. Healy, B.T. Hansen, M. Nygard, D.I. Conway, S. Wright, T.V. Macfarlane, M. Robinson, L. Alemany, A. Agudo, A. Znaor, C.I. Amos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although several oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) susceptibility loci have been identified, most previous studies lacked detailed information on human papillomavirus (HPV) status. We conduct a genome-wide analysis by HPV16 serology status in 4,002 oral cancer cases (OPC and oral cavity cancer (OCC)) and 5,256 controls. We detect four susceptibility loci pointing to a distinct genetic predisposition by HPV status. Our most notable finding in the HLA region, that is now confirmed to be specific of HPV(+)OPC risk, reveal two independent loci with strong protective effects, one refining the previously reported HLA class II haplotype association. Antibody levels against HPV16 viral proteins strongly implicate the protective HLA variants as major determinants of humoral response against L1 capsid protein or E6 oncoprotein suggesting a natural immune response against HPV(+)OPC promoted by HLA variants. This indicates that therapeutic vaccines that target E6 and attenuate viral response after established HPV infections might protect against HPV(+)OPC.Genetic susceptibility loci for oropharyngeal cancer have been reported but these studies have not always examined human papillomavirus (HPV) status. Here, the authors perform genome-wide analysis taking into account HPV16 serology status and report two independent loci in the HLA region, suggesting the protective role of HLA variants against HPV infection.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5945
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2021


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