Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a type of head and neck cancer which is also known as ‘Nose Cancer’. The tumour is located at the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose and the back of the nasal passages. The nasopharynx serves as a passageway for air traveling from the nose to the throat and then on to the lung.
NPC starts from epithelial cells that line the nasopharynx. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), NPC is classified into:
- Keratinising squamous cell carcinoma
- Non-keratinizing carcinoma (differentiated and undifferentiated types): this is the most common type of NPC in endemic regions, including Malaysia
Non-keratinizing NPCs are also referred as lymphoepithelioma because there are many white blood cells (called lymphocytes) exist among the cancer cells. This feature has attracted researchers to study the environment around NPC tumours (tumour microenvironment) that may help to develop new treatments.