Improved prognosis for head and neck cancers

A biomarker has been found that can detect the level of risk to a patient following the diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of a head or neck cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and can predict whether the tumourAn abnormal swelling. is likely to be life-threatening and what the prognosisAn assessment of the likely progress of a condition. might be.

It is hoped that this new test could become part of the initial consultations with patients suffering from head or neck cancers to establish how aggressively their cancer should be treated. The research, published in the American Journal of Pathology took tissueA group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. samples from over 100 patients and measured levels of particular RNA molecules. Certain RNA molecules are found to be abnormal in head and neck cancers and the researchers found that one molecule in particular stood out for being abnormal. The levels of the molecule, known as miR-375, were associated with the mortality rate of the patients.

Through measuring levels of miR-375 in patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers the researchers hope that it will “become part of a laboratory test to determine which patients have potentially lethal tumors…”

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