Management of hpv-related squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: Pitfalls and caveat

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Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) are a very heterogeneous group of malignancies arising from the upper aerodigestive tract. They show different clinical behaviors depending on their origin site and genetics. Several data support the existence of at least two genetically different types of HNSCC, one virus-related and the other alcohol and/or tobacco and oral trauma-related, which show both clinical and biological opposite features. In fact, human papillomavirus (HPV)-related HNSCCs, which are mainly located in the oropharynx, are characterized by better prognosis and response to therapies when compared to HPV-negative HNSCCs. Interestingly, virus-related HNSCC has shown a better response to conservative (nonsurgical) treatments and immunotherapy, opening questions about the possibility to perform a pretherapy assessment which could totally guide the treatment strategy. In this review, we summarize molecular differences and similarities between HPV-positive and HPV-negative HNSCC, highlighting their impact on clinical behavior and on therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number975
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Human papilloma virus
  • Oncogenes
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
  • Translational research
  • Tumor suppressor genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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