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J Clin Oncol. 2015 Oct 10;33(29):3293-304. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.61.1509. Epub 2015 Sep 8.

Immunology and Immunotherapy of Head and Neck Cancer.

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University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA


The immune system plays a key role in the development, establishment, and progression of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). A greater understanding of the dysregulation and evasion of the immune system in the evolution and progression of HNSCC provides the basis for improved therapies and outcomes for patients. HNSCC cells evade the host immune system through manipulation of their own immunogenicity, production of immunosuppressive mediators, and promotion of immunomodulatory cell types. Through the tumor's influence on the microenvironment, the immune system can be exploited to promote metastasis, angiogenesis, and growth. This article provides a brief overview of key components of the immune infiltrating cells in the tumor microenvironment, reviewing immunological principles related to head and neck cancer, including the concept of cancer immunosurveillance and immune escape. Current immunotherapeutic strategies and emerging results from ongoing clinical trials are presented.

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