Chemoprevention targets for tobacco-related head and neck cancer: past lessons and future directions

Oral Oncol. 2015 Jun;51(6):557-64. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2015.02.101. Epub 2015 Apr 11.


Progress toward identifying an effective chemopreventive agent to reduce the incidence of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has been limited by poor efficacy and intolerable toxicity profiles. In this review, we summarize the biological basis of HNSCC chemoprevention, and outline challenges associated with identifying appropriate high-risk HNSCC populations for chemoprevention studies. We discuss findings and lessons learned from clinical trials that have investigated micronutrient and molecular targeting interventions. Finally, we introduce the concept of green chemoprevention, interventions based upon whole plant foods or simple extracts that may represent a safe and cost-conscious option for the next generation of studies. As our scientific understanding of HNSCC reaches new levels, the field is poised to develop chemoprevention studies based on rigorous biological validation with accessibility to all affected individuals regardless of socioeconomic barriers.

Keywords: COX-2; Chemoprevention; EGFR; Green tea; Head and neck cancer; Oral premalignant lesion; Phytochemical; Retinoid; Sulforaphane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control*
  • Chemoprevention / methods*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco / adverse effects


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Micronutrients