To better treat recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancers, oncologists must better understand the molecular landscape by sequencing these tumors, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.1

Researchers enrolled 151 patients with head and neck cancers, each of which was advanced and treatment-resistant. Tumors were sequenced as part of clinical care, including “high-depth (median 600x) exonic coverage of 410 cancer genes and whole-genome copy number analysis.”

Targeted treatment, using genetic sequencing, guided treatment for 14% of patients; it was found that genetic profiles of metastatic and recurrent tumors were different from those of the corresponding primary tumors.

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Similar molecular profiles were found for both metastatic and recurrent human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive and -negative tumors, in contrast with those of primary tumors.

The authors concluded that precision treatment is starting to improve understanding of molecular changes in metastatic or treatment-resistant head and neck cancers.


  1. Morris LG, Chandramohan R, West L, et al. The molecular landscape of recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancers. JAMA Oncol. 21 July 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.1790 [Epub ahead of print]