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Circulating Tumour Cell Biomarkers in Head and Neck Cancer: Current Progress and Future Prospects

Institute of Head and Neck Studies and Education, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Cancers 2019, 11(8), 1115;
Received: 15 July 2019 / Revised: 30 July 2019 / Accepted: 1 August 2019 / Published: 5 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Biomarkers in Cancers)
PDF [853 KB, uploaded 5 August 2019]


Head and neck cancer (HNC) continues to carry a significant burden of disease both for patients and health services. Facilitating biomarker-led treatment decisions is critical to improve outcomes in this group and deliver therapy tailored to the individual tumour biological profile. One solution to develop such biomarkers is a liquid biopsy analysing circulating tumour cells (CTCs)—providing a non-invasive and dynamic assessment of tumour specific alterations in ‘real-time’. A major obstacle to implementing such a test is the standardisation of CTC isolation methods and subsequent down-stream analysis. Several options are available, with a recent shift in vogue from positive-selection marker-dependent isolation systems to marker-independent negative-selection techniques. HNC single-CTC characterisation, including single-cell sequencing, to identify actionable mutations and gene-expression signatures has the potential to both guide the understanding of patient tumour heterogeneity and support the adoption of personalised medicine strategies. Microfluidic approaches for isolating CTCs and cell clusters are emerging as novel technologies which can be incorporated with computational platforms to complement current diagnostic and prognostic strategies. We review the current literature to assess progress regarding CTC biomarkers in HNC and potential avenues for future translational research and clinical implementation. View Full-Text
Keywords: head and neck cancer; circulating tumour cell; biomarker head and neck cancer; circulating tumour cell; biomarker

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Payne, K.; Brooks, J.; Spruce, R.; Batis, N.; Taylor, G.; Nankivell, P.; Mehanna, H. Circulating Tumour Cell Biomarkers in Head and Neck Cancer: Current Progress and Future Prospects. Cancers 2019, 11, 1115.

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