Document Type: Literature Review


Dental Research Center, Dept. of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, School of Dentistry, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran. and Lecturer at Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.


Statement of the Problem: Head and neck cancers include epithelial tumors arising in the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, paranasal sinuses, and nasal cavity. Metastasis is a hallmark of cancer. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous small non-coding RNAs involved in cell proliferation, development, differentiation and metastasis. It is believed that miRNA alterations correlate with initiation and progression of cancer cell proliferation or inhibition of tumorigenesis. Moreover, miRNAs have different roles in development, progression, and metastasis of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Altered expression of miRNAs could be novel molecular biomarkers for the definite diagnosis of cancer, metastatic site, cancer stage, and its progression.Purpose: The purpose of this review was to provide a comprehensive literature review of the role of miRNAs in head and neck cancer metastasis.Search strategy: A relevant English literature search in PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Google Scholar was performed. The keywords ‘miRNA’, ‘head and neck’, and ‘cancer’ were searched in title and abstract of publications; limited from 1990 to 2015. The inclusion criterion was the role of miRNAs in cancer metastasis. The exclusion criterion was the other functions of miRNAs in cancers. Out of 15221 articles, the full texts of 442 articles were retrieved and only 133 articles met the inclusion criteria.Conclusion: Despite the advances in cancer treatment, the mortality rate of HNSCC is still high. The potential application of miRNAs for cancer therapy has been demonstrated in many studies; miRNAs function as either tumor suppressor or oncogene. The recognition of metastamir and their targets may lead to better understanding of HNSCC oncogenesis, and consequently, development of new therapeutic strategies which is a necessity in cancer treatment. Development of therapeutic agents based on miRNAs is a promising target. Keywords ● Head and Neck Cancer  ● Metastasis  ● miRNA