Clinical Utility of In Situ Hybridization Assays in Head and Neck Neoplasms

Head Neck Pathol. 2019 Sep;13(3):397-414. doi: 10.1007/s12105-018-0988-1. Epub 2018 Nov 22.


Head and neck pathology present a unique set of challenges including the morphological diversity of the neoplasms and presentation of metastases of unknown primary origin. The detection of human papillomavirus and Epstein-Barr virus associated with squamous cell carcinoma and newer entities like HPV-related carcinoma with adenoid cystic like features have critical prognostic and management implications. In salivary gland neoplasms, differential diagnoses can be broad and include non-neoplastic conditions as well as benign and malignant neoplasms. The detection of specific gene rearrangements can be immensely helpful in reaching the diagnosis in pleomorphic adenoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, secretory carcinoma, hyalinizing clear cell carcinoma and adenoid cystic carcinoma. Furthermore, molecular techniques are essential in diagnosis of small round blue cell neoplasms and spindle cell neoplasms including Ewing sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, biphenotypic sinonasal sarcoma, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, nodular fasciitis and inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor. The detection of genetic rearrangements is also important in lymphomas particularly in identifying 'double-hit' and 'triple-hit' lymphomas in diffuse large B cell lymphoma. This article reviews the use of in situ hybridization in the diagnosis of these neoplasms.

Keywords: Head and neck neoplasms; In situ hybridization; Lymphoma; Salivary gland neoplasms; Soft tissue and bone neoplasms; Squamous cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor