Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) are shed from the primary tumours of head and neck cancers (HNCs) and circulate in a patients' peripheral blood. CTCs represent an important interface into the mechanisms and characterisations of HNC dissemination as well as to identify patients who will respond to targeted treatments (eg. Immunotherapy - checkpoint inhibitors).
The identification of HNC patients likely to benefit from immunotherapy is of utmost importance and a current unmet clinical need. Recent clinical trials have demonstrated a significant improvement in overall survival and progression free survival in metastatic HNC patients treated with immunotherapies. However, it is not possible to determine which patients would benefit from this cost intensive treatment ($150,000/patient/year). Therefore, an assay to determine patient's likely benefit from immunotherapies would be of benefit to the patients and healthcare system. In turn, the correct patient would be given the correct treatment and may lead to an improvement to the current 5-year survival rate in HNCs, which is less than 50%.