Human Papillomavirus-Related Head and Neck Cancer

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Human papillomavirus(HPV)-related head and neck cancer is recognized as a distinct tumor entity with rising incidence reported for several countries. These tumors arise from squamous cells, typically in the oropharynx. In contrast to cancer associated with other risk factors, HPV-related cancer is driven by viral oncoprotein activity and has individual profiles regarding protein expression, and genetic and epigenetic alterations. Molecular characteristics are p16IN4A overexpression, absence of p53 inactivating mutations, and PI3K/AKT and Wnt pathway modulation. Patients with HPV-related head and neck cancer have improved survival compared to those with HPV-negative tumors, and p16INK4A staining has been introduced into tumor staging recently. However, no specific or toxicity-reduced treatment modalities have been established for this entity so far. Although the still incomplete and partially inconsistent data in this field needs further study, particular features of HPV-related cancers such as specific microRNA expression, immunology, or gene methylation patterns certainly have the potential to be implemented in future diagnostic and therapeutic concepts.

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