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Genetic Drivers of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Aberrant Splicing Events, Mutational Burden, HPV Infection and Future Targets

  • dlamini;, zodwa
Publication Date
Mar 15, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/genes12030422
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Head and neck cancers include cancers that originate from a variety of locations. These include the mouth, nasal cavity, throat, sinuses, and salivary glands. These cancers are the sixth most diagnosed cancers worldwide. Due to the tissues they arise from, they are collectively named head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). The most important risk factors for head and neck cancers are infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), tobacco use and alcohol consumption. The genetic basis behind the development and progression of HNSCC includes aberrant non-coding RNA levels. However, one of the most important differences between healthy tissue and HNSCC tissue is changes in the alternative splicing of genes that play a vital role in processes that can be described as the hallmarks of cancer. These changes in the expression profile of alternately spliced mRNA give rise to various protein isoforms. These protein isoforms, alternate methylation of proteins, and changes in the transcription of non-coding RNAs (ncRNA) can be used as diagnostic or prognostic markers and as targets for the development of new therapeutic agents. This review aims to describe changes in alternative splicing and ncRNA patterns that contribute to the development and progression of HNSCC. It will also review the use of the changes in gene expression as biomarkers or as the basis for the development of new therapies.

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