Researchers in Australia are developing a simple test using blood samples to determine if patients with rare head and neck cancers are at risk of having their cancer spread to other organs.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute, head and neck cancers make up about 4% of all cancer cases in the United States. Individuals who have been diagnosed with head or neck cancer are at greater risk of developing secondary cancer, such as in the esophagus or lungs, and the chance is higher for those who consume tobacco or alcohol products.
Just who is at risk for developing secondary cancers, or distant metastasis, has been the focus of researchers from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the researchers say they’ve found that a simple liquid biopsy using blood samples may help predict which head and neck cancer cases may spread. In a study of 60 patients with head and neck cancers, the research team examined blood samples containing clusters of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) – which are shed from primary or secondary tumors and then circulate in patients’ blood – using a device developed by the team to separate single CTCs and CTC clusters from the blood of cancer patients.