The use of water-suppressed proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of plasma as a serologic test for the detection of malignancy was first described in 1986. That report prompted the present study, which was undertaken to evaluate the efficacy of this test in differentiating patients who have head and neck malignancy from normal controls. Forty-six patients who had a biopsy-proven malignancy of the head and neck and 32 healthy individuals provided plasma for which the nuclear magnetic resonance spectrum was plotted, blind to patient diagnosis or group. The average line-width of methyl and methylene resonance was calculated. Significant differences (p<0.05) were found between the group with disease and the group with no disease for the methyl line-widths, using analysis of variance. In spite of this statistical difference, plotting of the values for the methyl, methylene, and average line-widths clearly demonstrated that these three oncolipid measures have no clinical use because of the tremendous overlap between the disease and nondisease groups. The findings of this study do not support the use of water-suppressed proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy as a clinically useful test for the diagnosis of head and neck malignancy.
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