Regulation of Interleukin‑6 in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Is Related to Papillomavirus Infection

The prevalence of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) related to human papillomavirus (HPV) is increasing, unlike tobacco- and alcohol-associated cancers. To gain a clearer understanding of the molecular mechanisms implicated in HNSCC, depending on the presence or not of a viral sequence, we investigated the expression of proteins detected in the tumor regions of HNSCC patients. Twenty-two untreated HNSCC patients were selected according to the presence of HPV-16. For six patients, tumor and controlateral healthy tissues were tested for viral detection before quantitative proteomic analysis. After confirmation by Western blot, proteins were connected into a network, leading to investigate interleukin-6 (IL-6) by immunocytochemistry and ELISA. 41 ± 5% of proteins quantified by proteomics were differentially expressed in tumor compared with healthy regions. Among them, 36 proteins were retained as modulated in HPV-16 positive or negative tumors, including cytokeratins, tubulins, annexin A1, and serpin B1. Network analysis suggested a central role of IL-6, confirmed by overexpression of IL-6 in tumor tissues as in sera of HPV-negative HNSCC compared with HPV-16-positive tumors. This modulation may contribute to the survival and proliferation of cancer cells, although it was not related to tumor stage or to the level of HPV-16 DNA.