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20 July 2018

Gene identified as tumour suppressor in head and neck cancer

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the 6th most common cancer with half a million cases diagnosed each year worldwide. HNSCC has a poor survival rate which has not improved for over 30 years. Current treatment strategies are highly toxic and do not benefit over 50% of patients.


Biomarkers (a naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic by which cancer and other pathological conditions can be identified) are crucial in creating new treatment options for patients.

A King’s College London Dental Institute research team has identified important properties in the gene ANXA1.

The gene is downregulated in head and neck cancer tissues, importantly resulting in phosphorylation and activity of EGFR, the most frequently overexpressed gene in HNSCC, and its downstream PI3K-AKT signalling. Additionally, ANXA1 modulation affected exosome production and influenced the release of exosomal phospho-EGFR.

This means the gene acts as a tumour suppressor by keeping EGFR signalling in check and could be an important prognostic biomarker, potentially improving survival rates in head and neck cancer in the future.

The paper will be in press next month.

In this story

Mahvash  Tavassoli

Professor of Molecular Oncology