Review

Emerging biomarkers in head and neck cancer in the era of genomics

  • Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology volume 12, pages 1126 (2015)
  • doi:10.1038/nrclinonc.2014.192
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Abstract

Head and neck cancer (HNC) broadly includes carcinomas arising from the mucosal epithelia of the head and neck region as well as various cell types of salivary glands and the thyroid. As reflected by the multiple sites and histologies of HNC, the molecular characteristics and clinical outcomes of this disease vary widely. In this Review, we focus on established and emerging biomarkers that are most relevant to nasopharyngeal carcinoma and head and neck squamous-cell carcinoma (HNSCC), which includes primary sites in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx. Applications and limitations of currently established biomarkers are discussed along with examples of successful biomarker development. For emerging biomarkers, preclinical or retrospective data are also described in the context of recently completed comprehensive molecular analyses of HNSCC, which provide a broad genetic landscape and molecular classification beyond histology and clinical characteristics. We will highlight the ongoing effort that will see a shift from prognostic to predictive biomarker development in HNC with the goal of delivering individualized cancer therapy.

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Acknowledgements

This Review is dedicated to our beloved colleague and friend, Dr K. Kian Ang, who had been a pioneer in clinically relevant biomarker development and dedicated his career to improving the care of patients with head and neck cancer.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, 1650 Orleans Street, CRB-1 Room 344, Baltimore, MD 21287-0013, USA.

    • Hyunseok Kang
    •  & Christine H. Chung
  2. Department of Radiation Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, 1650 Orleans Street, CRB-1 Room 344, Baltimore, MD 21287-0013, USA.

    • Ana Kiess
  3. Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, 1650 Orleans Street, CRB-1 Room 344, Baltimore, MD 21287-0013, USA.

    • Christine H. Chung

Authors

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Contributions

All authors contributed substantially to each stage of the preparation of the manuscript for submission.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christine H. Chung.