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Liquid Biopsies in Head and Neck Cancer: Current State and Future Challenges


Head and neck cancers are the seventh most frequent malignancy worldwide, consisting of a heterogeneous group of cancers that develop in the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx, with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) being the most common pathology. Due to limitations with screening and physical examination, HNSCC often presents in advanced disease states and is thus associated with poor survival. In this setting, liquid biopsies, or obtaining patient bodily fluid samples for cancer diagnosis and prognosis, may play a dramatic role in optimizing care for HNSCC patients. In recent years, there have been dramatic advancements in investigations focused on optimizing and implementing liquid biopsies in general, and specifically for HNSCC patients. Moving forward, there remain significant challenges in liquid biopsy technological development, as well as opportunities for the development of HNSCC liquid biopsy clinical trials and treatment paradigms. In this review, we discuss the current state of liquid biopsy technologies via circulating tumor cells, circulating tumor DNA and exosomes, approaches in head and neck cancer, challenges to optimization and application of liquid biopsies for clinical study, and future prospects for this field of research as it applies to head and neck cancer.

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