CCG Personalized Radiotherapy in Head and Neck Cancer

Medical Background

Cancer of the head and neck is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. Although therapy concepts have been improved during the past decades, the survival rate still only is about 50%. Radiation therapy plays an important role in the definitive therapy of head and neck squamous cells carcinoma (HNSCC), both as adjuvant treatment after surgery and as primary treatment (possibly combined with chemotherapy). The tumour response to radiation treatment exhibits, however, large inter-individual differences. Some tumours apparently have intrinsic protective mechanisms that make them resistant to the radiation doses normally applied during therapy. On the other hand, the side effects associated with radiation therapy do not allow a general enhancement of treatment doses. Thus, the identification of radiation resistant tumours prior to therapy would be very helpful in order to provide patients with improved personalised treatment strategies.

In previous work, scientists from the Research Unit of Radiation Cytogenetics at the Helmholtz Zentrum München identified chromosomal alterations in head and neck tumours that were associated with poor survival in patients treated with radiotherapy. In co-operation with the Department of Radiation Oncology of the KUM University Hospital, these potential markers of therapy response in HNSCC will now be validated in independent retrospective tumour sets. In collaboration with the Department of Otorhinolaryngology of the KUM University Hospital we also will establish a patient cohort for prospective validation. Besides validating candidate markers, we will additionally search for new markers of radiation sensitivity and of tumour therapy response. Therefore, tumour tissue obtained at surgery or biopsy will be analysed using genome-wide screening methods at different molecular levels and the resulting tumour-related alterations will be tested for a correlation with the clinical data including the follow-up data. 

Project Aim

The project aims at the identification  and validation of biomarkers of radiation sensitivity in HNSCC, in order to allow a stratification of patients prior to treatment for an improvement of personalized therapy concepts.