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Innovative DNA testing for HPV detection and surveillance

Innovative DNA testing for HPV detection and surveillance

HPV-related cancers often take years to develop after an infection by the virus. With well-established associations with cervical cancer, as almost all cases are caused by high-risk HPV, it is also linked to many other malignancies including head and neck, penile, anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers.  There are about 14 known high-risk HPV genotypes that, when not controlled by your immune system, can lead to cellular changes that progress to a cancer over time.  

HPV-related cancers are a significant world-wide burden and leading cause of death in many countries; fortunately however, the HPV vaccination is estimated to prevent up to 90% of them. Worldwide rates of adolescents receiving the HPV vaccine series have increased significantly over the past 20 years; despite this, there are estimates of more than 630,000 worldwide cases of HPV-related cancer diagnoses per year across the globe that are attributed to limited access and awareness regarding the multi-valent vaccine. 

Numerous clinical trials have provided insights regarding better ways to protect, diagnose and treat HPV-associated diseases.  Leading molecular diagnostics companies continue to work in areas of viral cancers; actively developing tests to sharpen our ability to detect and optimize HPV+ cancer care. 

Recently, award-winning data was presented at one of the  major oncology annual meetings, ASTRO, by principle investigators at the Mayo Clinic.  They outlined their study results regarding the first and only clinically validated DNA test designed to identify tumor tissue that has been modified by HPV in the blood.  Early detection may lead to in early intervention and improved outcomes. Not only can this new HPV DNA blood test aid in the diagnosis of an HPV-related cancer, it may also confirm the tumor genotype, help to determine response to treatment, identify post-therapy residual disease, and reveal recurrences earlier than standard-available surveillance measures.

Authored by Dr. Kate Barrett, MD and Jessica Matande, PA-C

Dr. Kate Barrett has over 15 years of experience in clinical, academic, and corporate oncology combined. She obtained her medical doctorate at the University of British Columbia, followed by five years of residency training in Radiation Oncology at the University of Toronto. She has published several primary and secondary investigative papers in high-impact international oncology journals, as well as achieved international conference awards based on laboratory and clinical-based cancer research. Dr. Barrett has trained and worked at world-renowned oncology academic institutions in Canada, the United States & Australia, as well as several other countries around the globe. She currently sits on an International Molecular Tumor Board for next-generation sequencing matching to targeted therapeutics.

Jessica has been a practicing Board Certified Physician Assistant since obtaining her degree from Arcadia University in 2013. She has worked in orthopedics and urology and has spent several years working specifically in urologic oncology at an academic medical center. She has published a book chapter discussing the management of patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for metastatic renal cell carcinoma that is featured in a handbook for advanced practice providers working in urologic oncology. She believes thorough education and honest conversation create the best path to empowering clients in their journey.


  1. Chera BS, et al. Plasma circulating tumor HPV DNA for the surveillance of cancer recurrence in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2020;38(10):1050-1058. 
  2. Chera BS, et al. Rapid clearance profile of plasma circulating tumor HPV type 16 DNA during chemoradiotherapy correlates with disease control in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2019;25(15):4682-4690. 
  3. Berger BM, et al. Detection of occult recurrence using circulating tumor tissue modified viral HPV DNA among patients treated for HPV-driven oropharyngeal carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2022 doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-22-0562.
  4. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), Head and Neck Cancers. Version 2.2022


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