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ISRN Otolaryngology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 708974, 8 pages
Review Article

Hypoxia in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Department of Surgery, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong

Received 31 August 2012; Accepted 23 September 2012

Academic Editors: M. V. Nestor and M. B. Paiva

Copyright © 2012 John Zenghong Li et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Hypoxia is a common feature in most of the solid tumors including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Hypoxia reflects the imbalance between oxygen consumption by the rapidly proliferating cancer cells and the insufficient oxygen delivery due to poor vascularization and blood supply. The hypoxic microenvironment in the HNSCC contributes to the development of aggressive carcinoma phenotype with high metastatic rate, resistance to therapeutic agents, and higher tumor recurrence rates, leading to low therapeutic efficiency and poor outcome. To overcome the therapeutic resistance due to hypoxia and improving the prognosis of the HNSCC patients, many approaches have been examined in laboratory studies and clinical trials. In this short paper, we discuss the mechanisms involved in the resistance of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in hypoxic condition. We also exploit the molecular mechanisms employed by the HNSCC cells to adapt the hypoxic condition and their tumorigenic role in head and neck, as well as the strategies to overcome hypoxia-induced therapeutic resistance.