Research ArticleCancer

Detection of somatic mutations and HPV in the saliva and plasma of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

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Science Translational Medicine  24 Jun 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 293, pp. 293ra104
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa8507

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A cancer test that’s worth a spit

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and its incidence is increasing. This is a difficult-to-treat cancer for which few targeted agents are available, and there are no biomarkers for monitoring therapeutic progress. Wang et al. discovered that tumor DNA can be detected and analyzed in the blood of most patients with head and neck cancers, as well as in the saliva of those with cancers of the oral cavity. Moreover, they found preliminary evidence suggesting that tumor DNA may be detectable in saliva before clinical evidence of tumor recurrence, which may be useful for patient monitoring if this result is confirmed in larger studies.