The Mutational Landscape of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma
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This study was the first-known large-scale effort to uncover the mutational spectrum of head and neck cancers. We analyzed whole-exome sequence from 92 tumor-normal pairs and retained 74 of them for significance analysis. The majority exhibited a mutational profile consistent with tobacco exposure; human papilloma virus sequence was detectable in 15% of cases. In addition to identifying previously known HNSCC genes (TP53, CDKN2A, PTEN, PIK3CA, and HRAS), the analysis revealed many genes not previously implicated in this malignancy. At least 30% of cases harbor mutations in genes (such as NOTCH1, IRF6, TP63) that regulate squamous differentiation, implicating alterations in this process as a major driver of HNSCC carcinogenesis. Altogether, the results suggest that large-scale exome sequencing may illuminate fundamental tumorigenic mechanisms with important therapeutic implications.