Mechanisms of Invasion in Head and Neck Cancer

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2015 Nov;139(11):1334-48. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2014-0498-RA. Epub 2015 Jun 5.


Context: The highly invasive properties demonstrated by head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are often associated with locoregional recurrence and lymph node metastasis in patients and is a key factor leading to an expected 5-year survival rate of approximately 50% for patients with advanced disease. It is important to understand the features and mediators of HNSCC invasion so that new treatment approaches can be developed.

Objectives: To provide an overview of the characteristics, mediators, and mechanisms of HNSCC invasion.

Data sources: A literature review of peer-reviewed articles in PubMed on HNSCC invasion.

Conclusions: Histologic features of HNSCC tumors can help predict prognosis and influence clinical treatment decisions. Cell surface receptors, signaling pathways, proteases, invadopodia function, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, microRNAs, and tumor microenvironment are all involved in the regulation of the invasive behavior of HNSCC cells. Identifying effective HNSCC invasion inhibitors has the potential to improve outcomes for patients by reducing the rate of spread and increasing responsiveness to chemoradiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Signal Transduction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • MicroRNAs