Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) arise in the mucosal lining of the upper aerodigestive tract. Tobacco and alcohol use have been reported to be associated with HNSCC. Infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of HNSCCs. It is now widely accepted that high-risk HPV is a cause of almost all cervical cancers as well as some forms of HNSCCs. HPV-related HNSCCs are increasing. HPV-related HNSCCs and HPV-unrelated HNSCCs differ with respect to the molecular mechanisms underlying their oncogenic processes. HPV-related HNSCCs are known to have a better prognosis response to treatment as compared with HPV-unrelated HNSCCs. Therefore, in recent years, it has been required to accurately discriminate between HPV-related and HPV-unrelated HNSCCs. To diagnose the HPV-related HNSCCs, various methods including P16
immunohistochemistry, FISH, and genetic analyses of the HPV gene from histopathological and liquid biopsy specimens have been employed. Based on the results of the differential diagnosis, various treatments employing EGFR TKI and low-dose radiation have been employed. Here, we review the involvement of the HPV virus in HNSCCs as well as the molecular mechanism of carcinogenesis, classification, prognosis, diagnostic procedures, and therapy of the disease.
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