The knowledge about the molecular alterations which are found in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) has much increased in recent years. However, we are still awaiting the translation of this knowledge to new diagnostic and therapeutic options. Among the many molecular changes that are detected in head and neck cancer, the abnormalities in several signaling pathways, which regulate cell proliferation, cell death and stemness, seem to be especially promising with regard to the development of targeted therapies. Canonical Wnt signaling is a pathway engaged in the formation of head and neck tissues, however it is not active in adult somatic mucosal cells. The aim of this review paper is to bring together significant data related to the current knowledge on the mechanisms and functional significance of the dysregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in head and neck tumors. Research evidence related to the role of Wnt signaling activation in the stimulation of cell proliferation, migration and inhibition of apoptosis in HNSCC is presented. Moreover, its role in promoting stemness traits in head and neck cancer stem-like cells is described. Evidence corroborating the hypothesis that the Wnt signaling pathway is a very promising target of novel therapeutic interventions in HNSCC is also discussed.
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