Head and neck cancer (HNC) is referred to the cancers of aerodigestive tract covering number of structures viz, oral and nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, lips, salivary glands, oropharynx, hypopharynx, pharynx, larynx, and local lymph nodes. It is the sixth most common cancer in the world. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small single‐stranded noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) of about 19–25 nucleotides. These miRNAs have been reported to influence number of biological activities, i.e., gene regulation, differentiation, organ formation, cell death, cell proliferation, and stress responses. The first ever study involving miRNAs in HNC was published in 2005. Since then, association between dysregulation of miRNAs and head and neck tumorigenesis has been documented by a number of researchers. This chapter has covered a comprehensive state of the art literature review of the recent studies about the role of miRNAs in HNC including oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and human nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Despite significant improvement in multimodal treatment, the prognosis of advanced HNC is quite poor. Recent studies are promising regarding the potential role of miRNAs as prognostic indicators. Recently, some miRNAs have been discovered as important diagnostic biomarkers. In fact, miRNAs are found circulated stably in different body fluids, i.e., urine, blood, saliva, as well as in breath. Hence, these miRNAs can be assessed easily with noninvasive methods. miRNAs are the key therapeutic targets in addition to their prognostic and diagnostic value. Use of synthetically designed “miRNAs sponges,” miR mimics (agomiRs), miR antagonists (“antagomiRs”), and miR inhibitors (antimiRNAs oligonucleotides) is an innovative strategy to modulate oncogenic and tumor‐suppressive pathways. Our understanding of miRNAs involvement in HNC is in its infancy. The discovery of miRNAs heralds a complete new paradigm in the understanding of exact molecular pathways involved in HNC development. More detailed studies are required for better understanding and therapeutic targets to treat HNC.
Part of the book: Head and Neck Cancer