Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in pregnant women

Head Neck. 2013 Mar;35(3):335-42. doi: 10.1002/hed.22973. Epub 2012 Mar 16.


Background: The aim of this study was to investigate oral cancer in pregnant women, a rare but therapeutically challenging patient subset.

Methods: After institutional review board approval, an EMERSE search was used to identify all women treated at the University of Michigan from 1998 to 2010 with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) during pregnancy. This identified 4 patients with tongue cancer. Biomarkers and human papillomavirus (HPV) were assessed by immunohistochemistry and multiplex PCR/mass spectrometry, respectively.

Results: Two patients responded well to therapy and are alive more than 10 years after diagnosis; 2 patients died of disease. All tumors overexpressed EGFR and Bcl-xL, 3 of 4 overexpressed c-Met, both tumors that progressed overexpressed p53. All tumors were negative for HPV, p16, estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER-2.

Conclusions: Biomarkers of aggressive tumors (high EGFR, c-Met; high Bcl-xL-low p53) did not correlate with outcome. Additional studies are needed to determine whether perineural invasion, delay in diagnosis, and p53 overexpression are factors in poor survival.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mouth Neoplasms / virology
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / mortality
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / virology
  • Risk Factors
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck


  • Biomarkers, Tumor