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Head Neck. 2008 Jul;30(7):946-63. doi: 10.1002/hed.20833.

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma--review of the molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis.

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  • 1Thoracic Oncology Laboratory, Department of Surgery, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, California 94115, USA.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a head and neck cancer rare throughout most of the world but common in certain geographic areas, such as southern Asia. While environmental factors and genetic susceptibility play important roles in NPC pathogenesis, the Epstein-Barr virus in particular has been implicated in the molecular abnormalities leading to NPC. There is upregulation of cellular proliferation pathways such as the Akt pathway, mitogen-activated protein kinases, and the Wnt pathway. Cell adhesion is compromised due to abnormal E-cadherin and beta-catenin function. Aberrations in cell cycle are due to dysregulation of factors such as p16, cyclin D1, and cyclin E. Anti-apoptotic mechanisms are also upregulated. There are multiple abnormalities unique to NPC that are potential targets for novel treatments.

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