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Field cancerization:
Concept and clinical implications in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
Gagan Jaiswal, Shradha Jaiswal, Rajesh Kumar and Aanchal Sharma

Cancer begins with multiple cumulative epigenetic and genetic alterations that sequentially transform a cell or a group of cells in a particular organ. The early genetic events might lead to clonal expansion of pre-neoplastic daughter cells in a particular tumor field. Subsequent genomic changes in some of these cells drive them towards the malignant phenotype. These transformed cells are diagnosed histopathologically as cancers owing to changes in cell morphology. Conceivably, a population of daughter cells with early genetic changes (without histopathology) remains in the organ, demonstrating the concept of field cancerization. The concept of “field cancerization” was first introduced by Slaughter et al in 1953 when studying the presence of histologically abnormal tissue surrounding oral squamous cell carcinoma. It was proposed to explain the development of multiple primary tumors and locally recurrent cancer. With present technological advancement and carefully designed studies using appropriate control tissue will enable identification of important molecular signatures in these genetically transformed but histologically normal cells. Such tumor-specific biomarkers should have excellent clinical utility. This review examines the concept of field cancerization in head and neck cancer and its possible utility in early detection, tumor progression and clinical significance.

Keywords: Field Cancerization, Tumor, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Human Papilloma Virus

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