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Head and Neck Cancer Progression Features Found With Single-Cell Transcriptomics

For a paper appearing in Nature Communications, Ajou University investigators track head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) progression through single-cell RNA sequencing analyses on cells from normal tissue samples, samples representing a precancerous condition called leukoplakia, the primary tumor, and metastatic HNSCC samples found in the lymph node. The team's analysis of scRNA-seq profiles for more than 54,200 individual cells from 23 HNSCC patients pointed to the presence of carcinoma in situ cells in the precancerous lesions that appear to be missed by conventional pathology, for example, while flagging malignant or immune cell expression features coinciding with progression and poorer outcomes. "We demonstrate the stepwise alterations in cell composition during HNSCC progression, identifying cell clusters for malignant, stromal, and immune cells," the authors report, adding that the new findings "reveal the cell-cell interactions between tumor cells and their microenvironment, providing key mechanistic and clinical insights into HNSCCs."