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OTORINOLARINGOLOGIA

A Journal on Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery,
Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, Otoneurosurgery


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Otorinolaringologia 2009 September;59(3):157-69

language: English

The role of biomarkers as potential targets for therapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Dean N. R., Rosenthal E. L.

Division of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA


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Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the fifth most common cancer in the world and in the United States accounts for 3-5% of all malignancies annually. Despite continuing advances in treatment, functional outcomes and overall survival have remained poor for patients with advanced stage head and neck disease. Understanding the molecular processes involved in carcinogenesis has resulted in the identification of multiple biomarkers. Biomarkers can provide early diagnosis or prognosis for patients with head and neck carcinoma, direct therapy by serving as predictors of treatment response, detect cancer recurrence or function as therapeutic targets for the development of new molecular-targeted agents. Several biomarkers have been identified as prognostic indicators in head and neck cancer but apart from human papillomavirus, these studies show conflicting results. Identification of human papillomavirus-associated tumors is important in that these tumors occur primarily in the oropharynx and confer improved prognosis. A number of biomarkers have also served as targets for investigational drugs including epidermal growth factor receptor and vascular endothelial growth factor. The anti-epidermal growth factor receptor monoclonal antibody, cetuximab, is currently approved for use alone or in combination with radiation therapy and has been shown to improved disease control and progression free survival in head and neck cancer patients. Although biomarkers have provided us with a better understanding of the pathogenesis related to head and neck carcinoma, most are not currently utilized in the clinical setting.

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