The number of newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients is predicted to increase by 62% by 2035. Although therapies for head and neck cancer (HNC) patients have improved, numerous patients still experience recurrence of the disease, and many will subsequently die from their disease as a result. This recurrence of disease is most likely linked to minimal residual disease (MRD) post-surgery. Further, HNC patients who have experienced disease recurrence but are successfully treated will often have long-term side effects that severely impact their quality of life.
Due to the lack of prognostic biomarkers to identify MRD in HNC patients, currently, post-operative treatment recommendations are not based on an individualised approach. There is a requirement for more precise decision-making strategies for these patients to allow clinicians to better match treatment intensity with a patient’s risk level and disease burden. We aim to evaluate the use of a novel liquid biopsy approach in the identification of MRD to better guide treatment protocols. This will ultimately reduce death rates from disease, improve quality of life for cancer survivors and significantly reduce healthcare costs.