We study how head and neck cancers grow and respond to treatment

The Faden Lab investigates how genomic alterations and viral infection impact head and neck cancer initiation, growth and response to treatment. The overarching goal of our research is to translate findings from the laboratory to clinical advancements that address the most pressing problems faced by head and neck cancer patients.

The lab’s efforts are centered on three overlapping arenas:

Understanding mutation acquisition and host-viral interactions in human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated head and neck cancer

A subset of head and neck cancers are caused by viral infection, including HPV. HPV-associated cancers behave differently than non-virally-associated head and neck cancers and are increasing in prevalence, surpassing cervical cancer as the most common HPV-associated malignancy in the U.S. Despite this, little is known regarding how HPV-associated head and neck cancers go from a cell that has become infected with HPV to a full-fledged cancer. Our research aims to elucidate this process, including how HPV leads to host mutations and how features specific to the virus dictate the behavior of the tumor. Understanding this process is vital for improved diagnostics and treatment decision-making.

Defining how the genomic and immunogenomic landscape of head and neck cancers impacts tumor behavior and response to treatment

In recent years there has been a rapid accumulation of information regarding the genomic landscape of head and neck cancer yet we have not seen this marked increase in knowledge translate to measurable improvements in patient care. Our research is focused on understanding how the tumor and immune microenvironment, and changes across time and treatment, impact treatment response. To do so, we are utilizing cutting edge sequencing and imaging approaches in tumor samples before and after therapeutic perturbations to identify critical alterations that drive treatment response.

Interrogating head and neck cancer treatment response and disease status using liquid biopsy

The field of liquid biopsy is rapidly evolving as a method for understanding both clinical and basic cancer biology questions. Our lab, in collaboration with investigators at MGH Cancer Center, is studying how circulating tumor cells, cell free DNA and extracellular vesicles can predict how a cancer is responding to treatments like immunotherapy and surgery.