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Identification of immunogenic cell death-related damage-related molecular patterns (DAMPs) to predict outcomes in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

PURPOSE: Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide, wherein the immune responses are closely associated with disease occurrence, development, and prognosis. Investigation of the role of immunogenic cell death-related genes (ICDGs) in adaptive immune response activation may provide cues into the mechanism underlying the outcome of HNSCC immunotherapy.

METHODS: ICDGs expression patterns in HNSCC were analyzed, after which consensus clustering in HNSCC cohort conducted. A 4-gene prognostic model was constructed through LASSO and Cox regression analyses to analyze the prognostic index using the TCGA dataset, followed by validation with two GEO datasets. The distribution of immune cells and the response to immunotherapy were compared between different risk subtypes through multiple algorithms. Moreover, immunohistochemical (IHC) analyses were conducted to validate the prognostic value of HSP90AA1 as a predictor of HNSCC patient prognosis. In vitro assays were performed to further detect the effect of HSP90AA1 in the development of HNSCC.

RESULTS: A novel prognostic index based on four ICDGs was constructed and proved to be useful as an independent factor of HNSCC prognosis. The risk score derived from this model grouped patients into high- and low-risk subtypes, wherein the high-risk subtype had worse survival outcomes and poorer immunotherapy response. IHC analysis validated the applicability of HSP90AA1 as a predictor of prognosis of HNSCC patients. HSP90AA1 expression in tumor cells promotes the progression of HNSCC.

CONCLUSIONS: Together, these results highlight a novel four-gene prognostic signature as a valuable tool to assess survival status and prognosis of HNSCC patients.

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