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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 894064, 8 pages
Review Article

The Cancer Stem Cell Concept in Progression of Head and Neck Cancer

Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

Received 13 March 2009; Accepted 14 September 2009

Academic Editor: Amanda Psyrri

Copyright © 2009 Zhuo (Georgia) Chen. 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.


Human head and neck cancer (HNC) is a highly heterogeneous disease. Understanding the biology of HNC progression is necessary for the development of novel approaches to its prevention, early detection, and treatment. A current evolutional progression model has limitations in explaining the heterogeneity observed in a single tumor nest. Accumulating evidence supports the existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs) as small subpopulations in solid tumors, including HNC. These CSCs can be selected by appropriate cell surface markers, which are cancer type specific and have been confirmed by unique in vitro and in vivo assays. Selected CSC populations maintain a self-renewal capability and show aggressive behaviors, such as chemoresistance and metastasis. In addition to introducing the CSC concept in solid tumors, this short review summarizes current publications in HNC CSC and the prospective development and application of the CSC concept to HNC in the clinic.