The field of salivary gland tumor biology is quite broad, given the numerous subtypes of both benign and malignant tumors originating from the major and minor salivary glands. Knowledge about the molecular pathology of these lesions is still limited, and there are few clinically useful diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. However, recent discoveries of certain key genomic alterations, such as chromosome translocations, copy number alterations, and mutations, provide new insights into the molecular pathogenesis of these lesions and may help to better define them. It is also hoped that this new knowledge can help to guide therapy, but this translation has been somewhat slow to develop, perhaps due to the rarity of these tumors and the lack of large, randomized studies. However, because of the limitations inherent in what surgery and radiation can provide, there is an urgent need for understanding of the mechanisms of carcinogenesis in these tumors individually, so that chemotherapy and/or targeted therapy can be rationally selected.
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