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Ann Transl Med. 2016 May;4(9):173. doi: 10.21037/atm.2016.03.34.

The emerging role of immunotherapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC): anti-tumor immunity and clinical applications.

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1 Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Medical Oncology, Attikon University Hospital, National Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Medicine, Haidari, Athens, Greece ; 2 Department of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, Medical University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria ; 3 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, St├Ądtisches Klinikum Karlsruhe, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) carries a poor prognosis, with low survival rates for advanced stage tumors and minimal improvement in survival trends through the past decades. It is becoming increasingly clear that HNSCC oncogenesis and evolution is characterized by profound immune defects, as cancer cells evade immunosurveillance due to accumulation of genetic mutations and tumor heterogeneity. Improved understanding of the role of the immune system in cancer has led to the identification of novel therapeutic targets, which are being investigated for their potential to provide durable responses. In this review, we will summarize the role of the immune system in HNSCC, the rationale behind immunotherapy strategies and their clinical applications.


Checkpoint inhibitors; head and neck cancer; immune system; immunotherapy

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