Head and neck cancer is an important health problem around the world, accounting for approximately 500,000 new cases each year of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Carcinogenesis of head and neck results from a dysregulation of cellular proliferation, differentiation, and cell death. The major etiologic agents are tobacco and alcohol consumption and for some cases, human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. All three factors are associated with the disruption of a cellular pathway essential for the maintenance of cellular integrity, the p53 pathway. The objective of this review is to point out the specificity of p53 gene (TP53) alterations in head and neck cancer in relation with chemocarcinogenesis and to discuss whether or not the determination of p53 alterations will be of clinical relevance in the management of head and neck cancer in terms of prognosis and response to treatments.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.