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AACR: Oral Rinse May Detect Head and Neck Cancer

Testing for two markers -- CD44 expression and CD44 hypermethylation -- may speed diagnosis

MONDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Early head and neck squamous cell carcinoma could be detected by using an oral rinse and testing for soluble CD44 and CD44 hypermethylation, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Los Angeles.

To determine if soluble CD44 (solCD44) alone was a reliable cancer marker, Elizabeth Franzmann, M.D., of the University of Miami, and colleagues collected oral rinses from 102 head and neck cancer patients and 69 control patients with a history of tobacco and alcohol use.

The researchers found that soluble CD44 levels were elevated in 62 percent of cancer patients. They also found that 50 percent of patients without invasive disease had elevated levels which were associated with dysplasia or imminent malignant progression. When they performed a second test on 11 cancer patients who had low levels of soluble CD44, they found that nine of them had evidence of CD44 hypermethylation.

"Our pilot work suggests that in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients, when solCD44 levels are low, CD44 hypermethylation is usually present," the authors concluded. "Since controls did not show CD44 hypermethylation, this marker in combination with the solCD44 test may significantly increase sensitivity without adversely affecting specificity. Further confirmation of our preliminary results regarding CD44 hypermethylation in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is ongoing."

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