Novel preventive interventions are needed to address the rising incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-mediated oropharyngeal cancer (HPV+ OPC). This pilot study evaluated the feasibility of a stepped, behavioral and biological screening program for oral oncogenic HPV infection, an intermediate HPV+ OPC outcome.
This was a cross-sectional, feasibility study. Eligible 45–74 years old adults identified from three clinical research registries were administered a behavioral risk survey (step 1). Participant tobacco use and sexual behavior history were translated into a quantifiable risk of oral oncogenic HPV DNA, according to prior National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey analyses. Females with >2% risk and males with >7% risk were offered biological screening for oral oncogenic HPV DNA (step 2) via an oral rinse and gargle specimen.
A total of 292 individuals were contacted, but only 144 (49%) were reached. Among these, 56 individuals (19%) were uninterested and 18 (13%) were ineligible. Seventy individuals began the survey and 66 completed it (step 1), among whom 46 were classified as low-risk. Among the remaining 20 participants classified as high-risk for an oral oncogenic HPV infection, 5% were current smokers and the median participant had performed oral sex on 10 unique partners. During step 2 (biological screening), 45% (9/20) completed testing, all of whom tested negative for oral oncogenic HPV DNA.
In this pilot of a stepped, oral oncogenic HPV screening program, enrollment and study completion were suboptimal. These barriers to screening should be characterized and addressed before reevaluating the feasibility of this program.
Novel preventive interventions are needed to address the rising incidence of HPV+ OPC. In this feasibility study, we characterized barriers to a two-step, behavioral and biological screening program for oral oncogenic HPV infection, an intermediate outcome for HPV+ OPC.