Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) defines a group of solid tumors originating from the mucosa of the upper aerodigestive tract, pharynx, larynx, mouth, and nasal cavity. It has a metastatic evolution and poor prognosis and is the sixth most common cancer in the world, with 600,000 new cases reported every year. HNSCC heterogeneity and complexity is reflected in a multistep progression, involving crosstalk between several molecular pathways. The Notch pathway is associated with major events supporting cancerogenic evolution: cell proliferation, self-renewal, angiogenesis, and preservation of a pro-oncogenic microenvironment. Additionally, Notch is pivotal in tumor development and plays a dual role acting as both oncogene and tumor suppressor. In this review, we summarize the role of the Notch pathway in HNSCC, with a special focus on its compelling role in major events of tumor initiation and growth.
Keywords: Notch pathway; oral cancer; squamous cell carcinoma.