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Molecular and nutritional markers in head and neck cancer.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: There is still a need of biomarkers in the induction and neoadjuvant settings for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). The objective of this concise review article is to give an overview on both predictive and prognostic biomarkers potentially useful for the management of SCCHN.

RECENT FINDINGS: Human papilloma virus (HPV) positivity translated by the presence of the protein indicator p16 is synonymous of favorable prognosis SCCHN. However, there is some disparity for disease evolution among p16 positive SCCHN. A lack of correlation between immunohistochemistry (IHC) and precise quantification of active epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs) may explain the absence of link between EGFR expression performed by IHC and response to EGFR targeting therapies reported in SCCHN. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have the property to share the main somatic mutations and genetic rearrangements with the primary tumors. A particular potential interest lies on the possibility to predict patient outcome based on a single-CTC analysis.

SUMMARY: This short review indicates that key biological marker reflecting disease outcome is not yet emerging for a clinical use in SCCHN. Hopes can be put into the so-called liquid biopsies incorporating circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA.

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