Dr Friedlander has done an elegant and realistic review of the present utility of genetic markers in the clinical care of patients with head and neck cancer. Clearly, no marker for HNSCC has been identified analogous to prostate-specific antigen for prostate cancer. In truth, there is no evidence to date that such a specific marker for head and neck cancer or SCC in general even exists. There are several reasons for this fact. First, biomarker studies are exceedingly complex and require analysis of large homogeneous study populations. Additionally, head and neck cancers are heterogeneous biologically as well as clinicopathologically. For example, different genes may be implicated in tonsil cancer than in larynx cancer, or different genes may be involved in tumors arising in nonsmokers than those in smokers.
Bradford CR. Genetic Markers of Head and Neck CancerIdentifying New Molecular Targets. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003;129(3):366-367. doi:10.1001/archotol.129.3.366