Searching for New Targets and Treatments in the Battle Against Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck, with Specific Focus on Tumours of the Tongue

Curr Top Med Chem. 2018;18(3):214-218. doi: 10.2174/1568026618666180116121624.


Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, SCCHN, is a heterogeneous group of tumours not only concerning the site of origin but also regarding aetiology. The 5-year survival for the whole group of SCCHN tumours has not significantly improved over the last 20-25 years. Apart from tumour spread to lymph nodes, N status, gains and losses of specific chromosomes are the only factors shown to be independent prognostic markers for these tumours. Worldwide, an increasing number of people ≤ 40 years are seen being affected by tongue SCC, the most common tumour within the SCCHN group. Even without any clinical signs of metastasis, up to 30% of all tongue SCC have histologically detectable spread to lymph nodes. In this mini review, field cancerization, tumour microenvironment, the so called EMT (epithelial mesenchymal transition) process and the role of viruses in development of SCCHN are discussed as well as potential new therapeutic targets. For the group of tongue SCC, with the increasing incidence seen in young patients and particularly women, new data with impact on prognosis and treatment are urgently needed. But as long as data from the analyses of several sub sites are presented as valid for the whole group of tumours, this vital point is missed.

Keywords: EBV; HPV; Prognosis; Squamous cell carcinoma; Therapy; Tongue; miRNA; p63..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Papillomaviridae / drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tongue Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Tongue Neoplasms / virology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antiviral Agents