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Researchers identify genetic markers for aggressive head and neck cancer
Date:3/18/2009

wed over five years. At the time of cancer diagnosis and before any therapy, researchers removed samples tumor tissue from patients, as well as normal tissue adjacent to their tumor, and measured microRNA levels in the two types of tissue.

Patients who fared worst had the lowest levels of two particular microRNAs─miR-205 and let-7d─in their tumor tissue. Specifically, these patients were four times more likely to have an earlier metastasis or local-regional recurrence of their cancer than patients with higher levels of miR-205 and let-7d in tumor tissue.

These findings may eventually be put to practical use, allowing physicians to identify potentially aggressive head and neck cancers and choose the most appropriate treatment. "A biologic marker identifying aggressive tumors would allow us to direct therapy more appropriately, minimizing over or under-treatment," explained Richard Smith, M.D., the lead clinician on the paper. Dr. Smith is associate professor of clinical otorhinolaryngology-head & neck surgery and associate professor of surgery at Einstein, and vice-chair of otorhinolaryngology-head & neck surgery at Einstein and Montefiore.

"In addition, these molecules, or modified forms of these molecules, can potentially be used in treatment because their small size allows them to be reintroduced into cells with the possibility of altering the behavior of a tumor," says Geoffrey Childs, Ph.D., professor of pathology at Einstein and corresponding author of the article.

"Our next steps are to confirm these results in a new patient population and to find additional markers that would allow us to develop a reproducible and accurate prognostic test," explained Nicolas Schlecht, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology and population health, and of medicine at Einstein. Dr. Schlecht is also the Miriam Mandel faculty scholar in cancer research and a senior author of the paper.


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Contact: Deirdre Branley
dbranley@aecom.yu.edu
718-430-2923
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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