Molecular biology of head and neck cancer: risks and pathways

Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2008 Dec;22(6):1099-124, vii. doi: 10.1016/j.hoc.2008.08.007.


Patients present with a differential baseline risk of cancer based on normal and expected variations in genes associated with cancer. The baseline risk of developing cancer is acted on throughout life as the genome of different cells interacts with the environment in the form of exposures (eg, toxins, infections). As genetic damage is incurred throughout a lifetime (directly to DNA sequences or to the epigenome), events are set in motion to progressively disrupt normal cellular pathways toward tumorigenesis. This article attempts to characterize broad categories of genetic aberrations and pathways in a manner that might be useful for the clinician to understand the risk of developing cancer, the pathways that are disrupted, and the potential for molecular-based diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell* / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell* / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell* / therapy
  • Risk Factors