Molecular biology of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

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Abstract

Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) is a heterogeneous but largely preventable disease with complex molecular abnormalities. It arises from a premalignant progenitor followed by outgrowth of clonal populations associated with cumulative genetic alterations and phenotypic progression to invasive malignancy. These genetic alterations result in inactivation of multiple tumour suppressor genes and activation of proto-oncogenes, including p16ink4A, p53, cyclin D1, p14ARF, FHIT, RASSF1A, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and Rb. Intramucosal migration and clonal expansion of transformed cells with formation of abnormal genetic fields appear to be responsible for local recurrences and development of second primary tumours.

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