January 23, 2012 (BRONX, NY) Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Einstein, have found a biomarker in head and neck cancers that can predict whether a patient's tumor will be life threatening. The biomarker is considered particularly promising because it can detect the level of risk immediately following diagnosis. This discovery could become a component of a new test to guide how aggressively those with head and neck tumors should be treated. The findings were published online January 9 in the American Journal of Pathology.
"Previous efforts to identify biomarkers for guiding treatment of head and neck cancer have not developed anything clinically useful for patients," said Geoffrey Childs, Ph.D., professor of pathology at Einstein and co-senior author of the paper.
Head and neck cancers, the sixth most common malignancy among men worldwide, most often affect the mouth, back of the throat and larynx (voice box). Smoking and alcohol use are major risk factors. Only half of patients are still alive more than five years after diagnosisa survival rate that hasn't changed in 40 years.
In their study, researchers took tissue samples from tumors and nearby healthy tissue of 123 head and neck cancer patients at Montefiore and measured levels of 736 members of a class of RNA molecules known as microRNAs. Certain members of this family of RNAs, which regulate protein abundance in cells, are abnormally expressed in head and neck cancers as well as every other malignant cell type yet examined. Of all the microRNAs measured, one in particular miR-375 stood out for being the most down-regulated (i.e., expressed at low level
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Albert Einstein College of Medicine