Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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Five-MicroRNA Signature: Predicting Outcomes in HPV-Negative Head and Neck Cancer

By: Celeste L. Dixon
Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The prognosis for human papillomavirus (HPV)-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is generally poorer than for those with HPV-positive disease. Dr. Julia Hess, of the German Research Center for Environmental Health GmbH in Neuherberg, and colleagues sought to find prognostic markers to help predict the risk of recurrence in this patient population and thus create personalized treatments with radiation, targeted drugs, and immune checkpoint inhibitors. They may have succeeded: By retrospectively performing microRNA (miRNA) expression profiling, they discovered a “five-miRNA signature [that] is a strong and independent prognostic factor for disease recurrence and survival of patients with HPV-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinoma,” the authors reported. Of note, added Dr. Hess in Clinical Cancer Research, “its prognostic significance is independent from known clinical parameters.”

The five-miRNA signature, when combined with established risk factors, allowed four prognostically distinct groups to be defined. Recursive-partitioning analysis classified 162 patients into being at low (n = 17), low-intermediate (n = 80), high-intermediate (n = 48), or high risk (n = 17) for recurrence (P < .001).

“[The five-miRNA signature] represents the basis for a more focused search for molecular therapeutic targets,” which would potentially improve “therapy success for appropriate patients,” the researchers stated. Currently, even when given state-of-the-art, standard-of-care therapy, patients with HPV-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cancer have an overall survival rate of only about 50%.

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