Human papillomavirus (HPV) is detected in a subset of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, most frequently in tumors in the Waldeyer's ring (palatine tonsil and base of tongue). Several studies suggest that patients with HPV-positive tumors have better survival with either concurrent chemoradiation therapy or surgery followed by radiation compared with HPV-negative patients. However, some possible confounding clinicopathologic variables may challenge the validity of this statement, for example, some authors used the TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) grouping stage while others used the primary tumor (T stage), and other studies have demonstrated that tumors with advanced T stage were less likely to be infected with HPV. A large clinical trial with stratification of patients according to all known tumor prognostic factors is crucial to solve the question.
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