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J Clin Pathol. 2006 May;59(5):445-53.

Molecular biology of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University Health Network, and Department of Pathobiology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) is a heterogeneous but largely preventable disease with complex molecular abnormalities. It arises from a premalignant progenitor followed by outgrowth of clonal populations associated with cumulative genetic alterations and phenotypic progression to invasive malignancy. These genetic alterations result in inactivation of multiple tumour suppressor genes and activation of proto-oncogenes, including p16(ink4A), p53, cyclin D1, p14(ARF), FHIT, RASSF1A, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and Rb. Intramucosal migration and clonal expansion of transformed cells with formation of abnormal genetic fields appear to be responsible for local recurrences and development of second primary tumours.

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