Head and neck cancer (HNC) is the sixth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Due to the low early diagnosis rate of HNC, local recurrence and high distant metastasis rate are the main reasons for treatment failure. Therefore, it is important to establish a method of diagnosis and monitoring, which is convenient, safe, reproducible, sensitive and specific. Compared with tissue biopsy, liquid biopsy is an emerging biopsy technique, which has the advantages of re-sampling, noninvasive and cost-effectiveness, and has shown good diagnostic and prognostic value in studies for various types of malignant solid tumors. This review introduces liquid biopsy, its research progress and prospects in HNC including early diagnosis, staging, grading, prognosis assessment and disease surveillance.
Keywords: HNC; cfDNA; circulating tumor cells; ctDNA; extracellular vesicles; liquid biopsy.