Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer stem(-like) cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Cancer Lett. 2013 Sep 10;338(1):47-56. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2012.06.013. Epub 2012 Jul 4.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the 6th commonest cancer worldwide. Relapse, thought to involve cancer stem(-like) cells (CSCs), and the development of metastases are common and survival rates remain low. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a key event in metastasis and increasing evidence suggests a link between EMT and CSCs. MicroRNAs regulate multiple cellular processes including EMT and have been implicated in a CSC phenotype. This review aims to highlight key events that are involved in EMT, discusses their relevance in HNSCC progression and metastasis and explores the possibility of targeting EMT as a novel therapy in HNSCC.

Keywords: Cancer stem(-like) cells; Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; HNSCC; Metastasis; MicroRNA; Therapeutic target regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / drug effects
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • RNA Interference


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • MicroRNAs