3 December 2019 from 12:45 to 13:45

PhD Defence: Liquid Biopsy in Head and Neck Cancer: The development of a new diagnostic tool

Head and neck cancer patients are at high risk of developing metastases and recurrence of disease after initial treatment. Moreover, metastases and recurrent disease are often detected in late stages, leading to high risk of morbidity and mortality. Emerging molecular analysis techniques such as ‘Droplet Digital PCR’ (ddPCR) have opened doors for more targeted and possibly faster detection of recurring disease through quantification of cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in blood and/or saliva of these patients, the so-called ‘liquid biopsy’. In this thesis, the possible role and applicability of liquid biopsy in head and neck cancer patients was investigated. First, the occurrence of DNA mutations in head and neck tumors was investigated, in which mutations of the TP53 gene appear to occur frequently. Simultaneously, these mutations were often found to be identical in primary tumors and their associated metastases or recurrent tumors. A technical feasibility study demonstrated the capability of ddPCR to quantify very small amounts of ctDNA in archived blood samples from head and neck cancer patients. In order to optimize technical procedures for the collection, storage and processing of blood samples for ddPCR analysis, laboratory experiments were subsequently carried out. This resulted in a standardized workup protocol, which was used to perform serial quantification of ctDNA in blood and saliva of head and neck cancer patients undergoing (chemo)radiotherapy. Although actual study results do not form clear patterns yet, the practical and technical feasibility of this analysis method in clinical practice were shown to be promising.

Start date and time
3 December 2019 12:45
End date and time
3 December 2019 13:45
PhD candidate
Joost van Ginkel
Liquid Biopsy in Head and Neck Cancer: The development of a new diagnostic tool
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. R. de Bree MDProf. P.J. van Diest
dr. S. Willemsdr. R.J.J. van Es
Entrance fee