Oral oncology

Can gene editing and silencing technologies play a role in the treatment of head and neck cancer?

PMID 28438299


Conventional treatment strategies have done little to improve the prognosis or disease-free survival in head and neck cancer (HNC) patients. Recent progress in our understanding of molecular aspects of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has provided insights into the potential use of molecular targeted therapies in combination with current treatment strategies. Here we review the current understanding of treatment modalities for both HPV-positive and HPV-negative HNSCCs with the potential to use gene editing and silencing technologies therapeutically. The development of sequence-specific RNA interference (RNAi) with its strong gene-specific silencing ability, high target specificity, greater potency and reduced side effects, has shown it to be a promising therapeutic candidate for treating cancers. CRISPR/Cas gene editing is the newest technology with the ability to delete, mutate or replace genes of interest and has great potential for treating HNSCCs. We also discuss the major challenge in using these approaches in HNSCC; that being the choice of target and the ability to deliver the payload. Finally, we highlight the potential combination of RNAi or CRIPSR/Cas with current treatment strategies and outline the possible path to the clinic.