DNA methylation biomarkers in peripheral blood of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. A systematic review

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Abstract

Background Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are often diagnosed in advanced stages. In search of new diagnostic tools, focus has shifted towards the biological properties of the HNSCC, and the number of different biomarkers under investigation is rapidly growing. Objectives The objective was to review the current literature regarding aberrantly methylated DNA found in peripheral blood plasma or serum in patients with HNSCC and to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of these changes. Methods The inclusion criteria were clinical studies involving patients with verified HNSCC that reported findings of aberrantly methylated DNA in peripheral blood serum or plasma. We systematically searched PubMed, OVID Embase and Cochrane Library. In addition to the search, we performed forward and backward chaining in references and Web of Science. The protocol was registered in PROSPERO: CRD42019135406. Two authors independently extracted data. The quality and the risk of bias of the included studies were assessed by the QUADAS-2 tool. Results A total of 1,743 studies were found eligible for screening, while ultimately seven studies were included. All studies were found to have methodological weaknesses, mainly concerning patient selection bias. The best individual marker of HNSCC was Septin 9 in plasma with a sensitivity of 57% and a specificity of 95%. Conclusions None of the aberrantly methylated genes found in the retrieved studies are applicable as single diagnostic markers for HNSCC and the best gene-panels still lack diagnostic accuracy. Future studies may benefit from newer sequencing techniques but validation studies with well-designed cohorts are also needed in the process of developing epigenetic based diagnostic tests for HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0244101
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume15
Issue number12
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2020

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