March 18, 2009 (BRONX, NY) Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have identified genetic markers that signal poor outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer. These findings could one day lead to a genetic test that could help select or predict successful treatment options for patients with this type of cancer. The results were published in the American Journal of Pathology.
Head and neck cancer refers to tumors in the mouth, throat or larynx (voice box). Each year, about 40,000 men and women in the U.S. develop head and neck cancer, making it the sixth most common cancer in the U.S. Surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation are the main treatment options but cause serious side effects: surgery may involve removing large areas of the tongue, throat, or neck and can affect appearance, and any type of therapy can cause swallowing or speech problems that can significantly affect quality of life. Despite curative treatment attempts, on average only about half of patients survive beyond five years after treatment. This is greatly affected by the size and location of the tumor.
The Einstein study focuses on microRNAs, a recently identified class of short RNA molecules that play key roles in regulating gene expression. Abnormal microRNA levels have been associated with all types of cancer yet examined.
In previous research, the Einstein scientists and other groups reported that approximately 50 specific microRNAs were expressed at higher or lower levels in head and neck tumor cell lines compared with normal cells. In this study, the Einstein researchers, for the first time, have linked levels of specific microRNAs with tumor recurrence and poorer survival in head and neck cancer.
The Einstein team analyzed samples from 104 head and neck cancer patients from Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein. The patients were treated and follo
|Contact: Deirdre Branley|
Albert Einstein College of Medicine