Progression of head and neck squamous cell cancer
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Squamous cell cancer in the head and neck region (HNSC) is unique concerning its progression since it remains locoregional for long time and visceral metastases develop only in a later stage of the disease. Accordingly, molecular markers of the local invasion and the lymphatic dissemination both have critical importance. HNSC progression is associated with deregulated control of cell proliferation and apoptosis but it seems equally significant the disregulation of the proteolytic machineries. Here we outline the lymphatic metastatic cascade for HNSC to depict key molecular determinants as possible prognostic factors or therapeutic targets identifying immunological selection as a major feature. Unlike in local spreading, invasive potential of cancer cells seems to be less significant during lymphatic dissemination due to the anatomical properties of the lymphatic vessels and tissues. There is a general believe that HNSC is one disease however, data indicate that the anatomical localization of the tumor (the “soil”) such as oral, lingual, glottic or pharyngeal has a significant effect on the gene expression profile and corresponding biological behavior of HNSC. Furthermore, even the endocrine milieu of the host was proved to be influential in modulating the progression of HNSC. Gene expression profiling techniques combined with proteomics could help to define and select usefull genetic and biomarkers of progression of HNSC, some of them could well be potential novel therapeutic target.