New Blood Test Could Monitor Cancer Patients for Recurrence


HPV (human papillomavirus), which is the most common source of sexually transmitted infections, is associated with an increased risk for cancers, including cervical cancer, other genital cancers, and head and neck cancer. Researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill developed an HPV blood test that could be used to monitor head and neck cancer patients for recurrence after treatment.

The researchers conducted a small study evaluating the blood test for HPV-linked oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (a type of cancer of the back of the throat) and found it’s an effective way to monitor for recurrence in people without symptoms. The test detects HPV DNA fragments (genetic material) released into the blood by dying cancer cells.

The study involved 89 patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer who had undergone chemotherapy and radiation. The researchers conducted the blood test before treatment, after treatment, and during follow-up visits. Study participants received regular X-rays or CT scans and clinical exams. According to the researchers, none of the 70 patients whose blood tests were negative three months after treatment experienced a recurrence, but cancer recurred in eight of the 19 with positive blood tests. The 11 study participants with positive blood tests but no evidence of recurrence continue to be monitored.

Sourced from: UNC School of Medicine