Background: Over the last two decades it has become clear that distinct types of human papillomavirus (HPV), the so-called high-risk types (hrHPV), are the major cause of cervical cancer. The hrHPV-DNA testing has shown excellent performance in several clinical applications from screening to the follow-up of conservatively treated patients.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the recent literature on the performance of HPV DNA testing in follow-up after treatment of high-grade cervical lesions, adenocarcinoma in situ, and microinvasive carcinoma compared to Pap smear cytology.
Results: Observational studies have demonstrated that the high risk hrHPV-DNA test is significantly more sensitive (95%) compared to follow-up cytology(70%) in detecting post-treatment squamous intraepithelial high-grade lesions. Moreover, in patients treated conservatively for cervical adenocarcinoma in situ, the hrHPV-DNA test is the most significant independent predictor of recurrent disease or progression to invasive cancer, and the combination of viral DNA testing and cytology reaches 90% sensitivity in detecting persistent lesions at the first follow-up visit and 100% at the second follow-up visit. The cause of microinvasive squamous cervical carcinoma is increasingly treated with conservative therapies in order to preserve fertility, and an effective strategy allowing early detection of residual or progressive disease has become more and more important in post-treatment follow-up. Primary results seem to indicate that the median time for viral clearance is relatively longer compared with patients treated for CIN and suggest a prolonged surveillance for these patients. However, the potential clinical value of HPV-DNA testing in this clinical setting needs to be confirmed by further observations.
Conclusions: The excellent sensitivity, negative predictive value, and optimal reproducibility of the hrHPV DNA testing, currently is considered a powerful tool in the clinicians’ hands to better manage post-treatment follow-up either in cervical squamous lesion or in situ adenocarcinoma.