Serum biomarkers for detection of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Document Type


Publication Title

Head & Neck


Background: Detection of hypermethylated circulating tumor DNA has the potential to be a minimally invasive, low cost, and reproducible method for cancer detection.

Methods: We evaluated serum from 100 patients with known head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and 50 healthy control patients for 3 previously described methylation targets, endothelin receptor type B (EDNRB), cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A (CDKN2A or p16), and deleted in colorectal carcinoma (DCC), using quantitative methylation specific polymerase chain reaction (qMSPCR).

Results: EDNRB hypermethylation was identified in the serum of 10% of the patients with HNSCC but in none of the control patients. DCC hypermethylation was detected in 2 serum samples from patients with cancer that also amplified EDNRB and one of these samples also had p16 hypermethylation. EDNRB hypermethylation was statistically significant by Fisher's exact test (p = .03) when comparing HNSCC to controls.

Conclusions: Serum EDNRB hypermethylation is a highly specific but not sensitive serum biomarker for HNSCC.

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Publication Date

Winter 1-2016