Head and neck cancer subtypes with biological and clinical relevance: Meta-analysis of gene-expression data

Loris de Cecco, Monica Nicolau, Marco Giannoccaro, Maria Grazia Daidone, Paolo Bossi, Laura Locati, Lisa Licitra, Silvana Canevari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a disease with heterogeneous clinical behavior and response to therapies. Despite the introduction of multimodality treatment, 40-50% of patients with advanced disease recur. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve the classification beyond the current parameters in clinical use to better stratify patients and the therapeutic approaches. Following a meta-analysis approach we built a large training set to whom we applied a Disease-Specific Genomic Analysis (DSGA) to identify the disease component embedded into the tumor data. Eleven independent microarray datasets were used as validation sets. Six different HNSCC subtypes that summarize the aberrant alterations occurring during tumor progression were identified. Based on their main biological characteristics and de-regulated signaling pathways, the subtypes were designed as immunoreactive, inflammatory, human papilloma virus (HPV)-like, classical, hypoxia associated, and mesenchymal. Our findings highlighted a more aggressive behavior for mesenchymal and hypoxia-associated subtypes. The Genomics Drug Sensitivity Project was used to identify potential associations with drug sensitivity and significant differences were observed among the six subtypes. To conclude, we report a robust molecularly defined subtype classification in HNSCC that can improve patient selection and pave the way to the development of appropriate therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9627-9642
Number of pages16
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Gene expression
  • Meta-analysis
  • Microarray
  • Tumor subtypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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