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29-08-2017 | Head and neck cancers | Article

Biomarker driven treatment of head and neck squamous cell cancer

Cancers of the Head & Neck

Authors: Nnamdi Eze, Ying-Chun Lo, Barbara Burtness

Publisher: BioMed Central



Treatment modalities of head and neck squamous cell cancer include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted agents and immune checkpoint inhibition. Treatment is often toxic and can affect long-term function and quality of life. In this context, identification of biomarker data that can help tailor therapy on an individualized basis and reduce treatment-related toxicity would be highly beneficial. A variety of predictive biomarkers have been discovered and are already utilized in clinical practice, while many more are being explored. We will review p16 overexpression as a surrogate biomarker in HPV-associated head and neck cancer and plasma EBV DNA as a biomarker in nasopharyngeal carcinoma, the two established biomarkers currently utilized in clinical practice. We will also examine novel predictive biomarkers that are in clinical development and may shape the future landscape of targeted head and neck cancer therapy. These emerging biomarkers include the tyrosine kinases and their signaling pathway, immune checkpoint biomarkers, tumor suppressor abnormalities, and molecular predictors of hypoxia-targeted therapy. We will also look at futuristic biomarkers including detection of circulating DNA from clinical specimens and rapid tumor profiling. We will highlight the ongoing effort that will see a shift from prognostic to predictive biomarker development in head and neck cancer with the goal of delivering individualized cancer therapy.

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