Molecular Pathology of Head and Neck Cancer

  • Audrey P. Calzada
  • Maie A. St. John
  • Elliot Abemayor
  • David T. W. Wong


Recent advances in molecular biology have changed the way we approach, diagnose, and treat cancers of the head and neck. Notable advances in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) include the association of tumor suppressor genes with the human papilloma virus (HPV) in a subset of patients without the traditional risk factors of smoking and alcohol use. The detection of viruses in head and neck malignancies lends not only important diagnostic but also prognostic information as in the case of both HPV in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma and Epstein bar virus in nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Multiple gene mutations have now been detected in various head and neck cancers, including EGFR and p16 in HNSCC and BRAF and RET gene mutations in thyroid carcinomas. Novel molecular therapies are being developed specifically targeting these genes. The future of state of the art therapy in head and neck cancer is based on further advances in molecular biology. This chapter provides an overview of the most up to date understanding of the molecular biology underlying head and neck cancer pathology. We also highlight future directions in both diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancers based on the most recent research advances.


Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Human Papilloma Virus Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Expression 
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Supported in part by the Felix and Mildred Yip Endowed Professorship and The Barnes Family Foundation Fund.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Audrey P. Calzada
    • 1
  • Maie A. St. John
    • 1
  • Elliot Abemayor
    • 1
  • David T. W. Wong
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Head and Neck SurgeryCHS David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Dental Research InstituteUCLA School of DentistryLos AngelesUSA

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