Decline in circulating viral and human tumor markers after resection of head and neck carcinoma

Erin M. Lopez, April Michelle Tanner, Eugenie Du, Samip N. Patel, Jared Weiss, Mark C. Weissler, Trevor Hackman, Gaorav P. Gupta, Jose Zevallos, Sandra Elmore, Renee Betancourt, Leigh Thorne, Siddharth Sheth, Margaret L. Gulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: DNA sequencing panels can simultaneously quantify human and viral tumor markers in blood. We explored changes in levels of plasma tumor markers following surgical resection of head and neck carcinoma. Methods: In preresection and postresection plasmas, targeted DNA sequencing quantified variants in 28 human cancer genes and levels of oncogenic pathogens (human papillomavirus [HPV], Epstein-Barr virus [EBV], Helicobacter pylori) from 21 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Results: Preresection, 11 of 21 patients (52%) had detectable tumor markers in plasma, most commonly TP53 mutation or HPV genome. Several days postresection, levels fell to undetectable in 8 of 10 evaluable patients, while two high-stage patients retained circulating tumor markers. Conclusions: Modern sequencing technology can simultaneously quantify human gene variants and oncogenic viral genomes in plasma. Falling levels of cancer-specific markers upon resection can help identify viral and human markers to track at subsequent timepoints as a means to evaluate efficacy of interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA sequencing
  • carcinoma
  • cell-free DNA
  • human papillomavirus
  • tumor markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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