Head and neck cancer affects the upper aerodigestive tract and is the sixth leading cancer worldwide by incidence and the seventh by cause of death. Despite significant advances in surgery and chemotherapy, molecularly targeted therapeutic options for this type of cancer are scarce and long term survival rates remain low. Recently, comprehensive genomic studies have highlighted the most commonly altered genes and signaling pathways in this cancer. The Hippo-YAP pathway has been identified as a key oncogenic pathway in multiple tumors. Expression of genes controlled by the Hippo downstream transcriptional coactivators YAP (Yes-associated protein 1) and TAZ (WWTR1, WW domain containing transcription regulator 1) is widely deregulated in human cancer including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Interestingly, YAP/TAZ signaling might not be as essential for the normal homeostasis of adult tissues as for oncogenic growth, altogether making the pathway an amenable therapeutic target in cancer. Recent advances in the role of Hippo-YAP pathway in HNSCC have provided evidence that genetic alterations frequent in this type of cancer such as PIK3CA
(phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase catalytic subunit alpha) overexpression or FAT1 (FAT atypical cadherin 1) functional loss can result in YAP activation. We discuss current therapeutic options targeting this pathway which are currently in use for other tumor types.
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