Tumor and stromal-based contributions to head and neck squamous cell carcinoma invasion

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Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is typically diagnosed at advanced stages with evident loco-regional and/or distal metastases. The prevalence of metastatic lesions directly correlates with poor patient outcome, resulting in high patient mortality rates following metastatic development. The progression to metastatic disease requires changes not only in the carcinoma cells, but also in the surrounding stromal cells and tumor microenvironment. Within the microenvironment, acellular contributions from the surrounding extracellular matrix, along with contributions from various infiltrating immune cells, tumor associated fibroblasts, and endothelial cells facilitate the spread of tumor cells from the primary site to the rest of the body. Thus far, most attempts to limit metastatic spread through therapeutic intervention have failed to show patient benefit in clinic trails. The goal of this review is highlight the complexity of invasion-promoting interactions in the HNSCC tumor microenvironment, focusing on contributions from tumor and stromal cells in order to assist future therapeutic development and patient treatment.