Essential characterisation of human papillomavirus positive head and neck cancer cell lines

Frances S T Greaney-Davies, Janet M Risk, Max Robinson, Triantafilos Liloglou, Richard J Shaw, Andrew G Schache

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: The incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck cancer, particularly oropharyngeal, has been increasing rapidly. Understanding of this disease, and modelling of suitable therapeutics, requires sustainable cell cultures, yet they remain limited in number and of variable origin. A comprehensive understanding of these resources is therefore of great importance.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Viral gene expression assays and pathological testing methods were used in the six currently available HPV-positive cell lines derived from head and neck (H&N) subsites, two HPV-negative H&N and two cervical carcinoma cell lines. A 2D migration assay monitored cell movement, speed and pattern of migration.

RESULTS: All six H&N and two cervical cell lines were confirmed HPV-positive by gold standard testing, yet variability between tests was apparent. Although migration was not significantly different between cell lines, each demonstrated unique migration patterns.

CONCLUSION: Patient-derived cancer cells, arising as a consequence of natural oncogenic processes rather than in vitro manipulation, are essential for understanding cancer biology. We have characterised the available HPV-positive H&N cell lines and provided clear evidence of a persisting viral oncogenic driver in each, as such supporting their ongoing use as a model of HPV-positive H&N cancer. Importantly, we also highlight a need for caution to be exercised when translating future in vitro findings associated with these lines particularly in the context of oropharyngeal cancer given irregularities in tumour provenance (origin site and clinicopathological features).

Original languageEnglish
Article number104613
JournalOral Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms/etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Papillomaviridae/pathogenicity
  • Papillomavirus Infections/complications


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