Molecular Genetics of Head and Neck Cancer

Lyon L. Gleich, MD, Frank N. Salamone, MD

Disclosures

Cancer Control. 2002;9(5) 

In This Article

Molecular Immunology

Immunocompromised patients are more susceptible to many malignancies, and it is hypothesized that the immune system is involved in active surveillance for tumor cells. Patients with head and neck cancer in particular exhibit impairments in immune cell function and cytokine production. This suppression is present at the primary site, in the neck nodes, and systemically.[90] Tumor cells also secrete substances that further suppress the immune system. The treatments for head and neck cancers also cause immunosuppression.

As a part of the cellular immune system, major histocompatibility (MHC) class I proteins present peptide antigens to CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Thus, loss of class I MHC activity may allow tumor cells to elude detection. IHC and LOH studies have shown abnormalities in MHC expression in many head and neck tumors.[91]

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