Date: 21 Nov 2012

Impact of Genetic Targets on Therapy in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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Abstract

Despite advances in surgical technique, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, the mortality from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has not improved significantly. Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by tobacco use, alcohol consumption and infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus. It is the 6th most common cancer in the world, with upwards of 45,000 new cases reported yearly in the United States alone.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the understanding of the molecular and genetic pathogenesis of head and neck cancer, shedding light on the unexpected heterogeneity of the disease. Genetic analysis has led to new classification schemes for HNSCC, with different subgroups exhibiting different prognoses. In addition, multiple targets in aberrant signaling pathways have been identified using increasingly sophisticated bio-informatics tools. Advances in technology have allowed for novel delivery mechanisms to introduce genetic material into cells to produce a therapeutic effect by targeting cancer cells via a number of different approaches.

A pressing need to develop novel therapies to augment current treatment modalities has led to a number of translational studies involving gene therapy in the treatment of HNSCC. This article will focus on a review of the most recent developments in molecular biology of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in regards to possible targets for gene therapy, as well as the array of novel therapeutic strategies directed at these targets.