New molecular diagnostic methods in head and neck cancer
Head and Neck Neoplasms
Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
Initial cancer evaluation includes assessment of histologic appearance, tumor grading, assessment of lymph node status, and presence of metastasis. However, traditional diagnostic methods such as histopathology and radiology are not sensitive enough to detect small numbers of cancer cells and are limited in their ability to predict response to treatment. Recently, there has been considerable progress in molecular diagnostics in these areas. Using molecular-based technologies, it is now possible to detect cancer early in asymptomatic individuals, identify minimal residual disease at histopathologic normal surgical margins, more precisely assess tumor burden in cancer patients, and more accurately assess the prognosis of the patients. Examples of these applications in the evaluation of head and neck cancer are reviewed here. However, despite the great promise of these new molecular approaches for cancer detection, much of the current technology limits their implementation into routine clinical use.