Targeting receptor tyrosine kinases and their signal transduction routes in head and neck cancer

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Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) is the sixth most common cancer in the world. At present several therapeutic approaches, including surgical removal, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are used. Yet a significant number of patients relapse, often with metastases. In an attempt to improve treatment of SCCHN new targeted therapies are emerging. Among them special interest has been devoted to agents that act on the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and other receptor tyrosine kinases, or the signal transduction routes used by these receptors to induce tumour cell proliferation. Such treatments include monoclonal antibodies and small molecule inhibitors of either the intracellular tyrosine kinase activity of these receptors or relevant signalling intermediates. Here we review the biological bases of these new targeted treatments, with special emphasis on the clinical results that point to an implementation of these drugs into the therapeutic armamentarium against SCCHN.

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