Dania Nachira, Maria Teresa Congedo, Ettore D’Argento, Elisa Meacci, Jessica Evangelista, Carolina Sassorossi, Giuseppe Calabrese, Adriana Nocera, Khrystyna Kuzmych, Rosaria Santangelo, Guido Rindi, Stefano Margaritora

The Role of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in Primary Lung Cancer Development: State of the Art and Future Perspectives

  • Paleontology
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Notably, the incidence of lung cancer among never-smokers, predominantly women, has been rising in recent years. Among the various implicated risk factors, human papilloma virus (HPV) may play a role in the development of NSCLC in a certain subset of patients. The prevalence of high-risk HPV-DNA within human neoplastic lung cells varies across the world; however, the carcinogenetic role of HPV in NSCLC has not been completely understood. Bloodstream could be one of the routes of transmission from infected sites to the lungs, along with oral (through unprotected oral sex) and airborne transmission. Previous studies reported an elevated risk of NSCLC in patients with prior HPV-related tumors, such as cervical, laryngeal, or oropharyngeal cancer, with better prognosis for HPV-positive lung cancers compared to negative forms. On the other hand, 16% of NSCLC patients present circulating HPV-DNA in peripheral blood along with miRNAs expression. Typically, these patients have a poorly differentiated NSCLC, often diagnosed at an advanced stage. However, HPV-positive lung cancers seem to have a better response to target therapies (EGFR) and immune checkpoint inhibitors and show an increased sensitivity to platinum-based treatments. This review summarizes the current evidence regarding the role of HPV in NSCLC development, especially among patients with a history of HPV-related cancers. It also examines the diagnostic and prognostic significance of HPV, investigating new future perspectives to enhance cancer screening, diagnostic protocols, and the development of more targeted therapies tailored to specific cohorts of NSCLC patients with confirmed HPV infection.

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