Characterising the epithelial-mesenchymal transition status of circulating tumour cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Circulating tumour cells (CTCs), in particular those undergoing an epithelial-mesenchymal-transition (EMT), are a promising source of biomarkers in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Our aim was to validate a protocol using microfluidic enrichment (Parsortix platform) with flow-cytometry CTC characterisation.

METHOD: Blood samples from 20 treatment naïve HNSCC patients underwent Parsortix enrichment and flow-cytometry analysis to quantify CTCs and identify epithelial or EMT sub-groups - correlated to EMT gene-expression in tumour tissue.

RESULTS: CTCs were detected in 65% of patients (mean count 4 CTCs/ml). CTCs correlated with advanced disease (p=0.0121), but not T or N stage. Epithelial or EMT CTCs did not correlate with progression-free or overall-survival. Tumour mesenchymal gene-expression did not correlate with CTC EMT expression (p=0.347).

DISCUSSION: Microfluidic enrichment and flow-cytometry successfully characterises EMT CTCs in HNSCC. The lack of association between tumour and CTC EMT profile suggests may undergo an adaptive EMT in response to stimuli within the circulation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHead & Neck
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Jul 2022

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