New diagnostic technique for HPV detection in oropharyngeal cancers

  • The new trial allows human papilloma virus (HPV) detection and genotyping with the same sensitivity as other commonly used PCRs but following a much simpler procedure.
  • Determining whether oropharyngeal cancer is associated with HPV infection is vital in choosing a treatment and determining its course.
  • This study was carried out by the Infections and Cancer Research Group of IDIBELL and ICO in collaboration with the diagnostic company Atila Biosystems.
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Around 42,000 new cases of oropharyngeal cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection are diagnosed worldwide each year.

Determining whether or not this cancer is related to HPV is vital in defining the best therapeutic strategy, as the response to treatment and the differential course of the disease will depend on this.

Clinical guidelines recommend performing a double test to determine if a tumor is caused by the virus or not. Detection of p16, a virus-induced tumorigenesis-indicating protein, is recommended, along with direct detection of the virus’s DNA and genotyping.

The Infections and Cancer research group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), in collaboration with the diagnostic company Atila Biosystems, has evaluated the capacity of a new HPV detection method, the AmpFire HPV test. This new test allows the detection of up to 15 HPV genotypes in a much simpler and faster way than the molecular techniques used so far.

In the study, published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, researchers analyzed up to 160 samples of oropharyngeal tumors. The Linear Array assay, one of the most widely used PCR assay for HPV screening in clinical practice, has been compared to the new AmpFire HPV test. The obtained results determined that the two techniques have the same detection sensitivity and are able to distinguish the same HPV variants.

With these results, Dr. Miguel Ángel Pavón, project leader, concludes: “This new technique, with the same sensitivity and specificity as the techniques used until the moment, will allow us to diagnose oropharyngeal tumors caused by HPV in a much simpler and easier way to implement in clinical practice “.



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).

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