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Blood Test may Help Signal Tumor's Remission, Return in Throat Cancer Patients

l to this treatment or whether a tumor will return later. Clinical exams, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are currently used to monitor a patients progress, but observation by these methods has been difficult due to the scarring that occurs from radiation.

Finding better markers for detecting cancer as it begins and then monitoring the course of treatment is a major goal of the NCI and this research in head and neck cancer is an excellent example of the type of collaborative study between two NIH institutes that helps advance the field, said NCI Director, John E. Niederhuber, M.D.

It is estimated that more than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx (the middle part of the throat that includes the soft palate, tonsils, and tongue) in 2007, and that 7,550 Americans will die from it. Alcohol and tobacco use are the most important risk factors for head and neck cancers, with tobacco use accounting for 85 percent of the cases. Just last month, other NIH-supported doctors reported that sexual transmission of human papillomavirus is strongly associated with throat cancer, especially in cancers arising from the tonsils and base of the tongue.

In the largest long-term study of its kind, NIH and University of Michigan researchers tested the blood of 30 patients who had undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment for advanced throat cancer. Starting immediately before treatment and continuing every three months for 12 months, the researchers tested the patients blood for five proteins that, in previous studies, had been found to occur at heightened levels in head and neck cancer patients.

These include two cytokines known as Interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8, and three growth factors known as growth-related oncogene (GRO)-1, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). These cytokines and growth factors play an important role in the bodys
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