Dynamic survivin in head and neck cancer: molecular mechanism and therapeutic potential

Int J Cancer. 2007 Sep 15;121(6):1169-74. doi: 10.1002/ijc.22941.


Although disease management of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) has improved significantly, therapy resistance leading to tumor recurrence still counteracts improvement of long-term survival. Consequently, identification of molecular markers that signal increased risk of treatment failure or, which can be exploited by targeted therapy, is urgently needed. Survivin is strongly expressed in HNSCC, and its proposed dual role as an apoptosis inhibitor and a mitotic effector positioned survivin in the front line of cancer research. Notably, survivin is detected as a cytoplasmic and as a nuclear protein in HNSCC patients, which stimulated numerous studies to investigate and to speculate on the functional and prognostic significance of its dynamic localization. This review focuses on our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating survivin's intracellular localization and discusses its potential prognostic and therapeutic relevance for head and neck cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Survivin


  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Survivin