Circulating cell-free HPV DNA is a strong marker for disease severity in cervical cancer

Sara Bønløkke*, Torben Steiniche, Boe Sandahl Sorensen, Gitte-Bettina Nyvang, Jacob Christian Lindegaard, Jan Blaakaer, Jesper Bertelsen, Katrine Fuglsang, Mikael Lenz Strube, Suzan Lenz, Magnus Stougaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


For cervical cancer (CC), circulating cell-free HPV DNA (ccfHPV) may establish disease severity. Furthermore, HPV integration has been correlated to viral load and survival. In this study, pre-treatment plasma from 139 CC cases (50 primary surgery patients, 22 primary surgery + adjuvant oncological therapy patients, and 67 primary oncological therapy patients) was collected (2018–2020). Furthermore, plasma from 25 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 patients and 15 healthy women (negative controls) were collected. Two next-generation sequencing (NGS) panels were used to establish ccfHPV presence and human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) integration status. ccfHPV was detected in four primary surgery (8.0%), eight primary surgery + adjuvant oncology (36.4%), and 54 primary oncology (80.6%) patients. For primary oncology patients with HPV16-related cancer (n = 37), more ccfHPV neg than ccfHPV pos patients had HPV16 integration (P = 0.04), and in patients with HPV16 integration (n = 13), ccfHPV pos patients had higher disease stages than ccfHPV neg patients (P = 0.05). In summary, ccfHPV presence is related to disease severity and may add to the debated Sedlis criteria used for identifying patients for adjuvant oncological therapy. However, ccfHPV detection is influenced by HPV integration status and disease stage, and these factors need to be considered in ccfHPV neg patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Oncology
Pages (from-to)1231-1244
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • HPV
  • HPV integration
  • Sedlis criteria
  • cervical cancer
  • circulating HPV DNA
  • next-generation sequencing
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Papillomavirus Infections/virology
  • DNA, Viral/blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor/blood
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids/blood
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms/virology
  • Human papillomavirus 16/genetics
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Aged


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