MicroRNA aberrances in head and neck cancer: pathogenetic and clinical significance

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Purpose of review

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play crucial roles in modulating the neoplastic process of cancers including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). miRNAs modulate pathogenesis by inhibiting target genes. Understanding how aberrant miRNAs are involved in HNSCC pathogenesis should help to validate potential clinical applications that target these entities.

Recent findings

miR-21, miR-31, miR-504 and miR-10b are important oncogenic miRNAs that are involved in HNSCC and target tumour suppressor genes. The tumour suppressor roles of the let-7 family, the miR-99 family, miR-107, miR-133a, miR-137, miR-138 and miR-375 with respect to their targeting of oncogenes are unequivocal and have been confirmed by many studies. In addition, miR-21, let-7, miR-107, miR-138 and miR-200c seem to play complicated roles in regulating stemness or the epithelial-mesenchymal transition of tumour cells. The clinical implications of these tumour-associated miRNAs are generally in agreement with their functional roles.


A number of pathways that become disregulated by aberrant miRNAs have been identified specifically for HNSCC. Analysis of these networks and their therapeutic interception might facilitate the prediction of disease status and help with the design of therapeutic trials.

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