Scientists at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the International Agency for Research on Cancer found at least 1-in-3 individuals with oral cancer had antibodies to HPV, compared to less than 1-in-100 individuals without cancer.
Lead Investigator Aimee R. Kreimer at the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute said the findings raise the possibility that a blood test might one day be used to identify patients with this type of cancer.
When present, these antibodies were detectable many years before the onset of the cancer, Kreimer said.
In the United States because of increased infection with HPV type 16 it is estimated more than 60 percent of current cases of oral cancer are due to HPV16. Persistent infection with HPV16 induces cellular changes that lead to cancer, Kreimer said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.