Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is one of the main malignant tumours affecting human health, mainly due to delayed diagnosis and high invasiveness. Extracellular vehicles (EVs) are membranous vesicles released by cells into the extracellular matrix that carry important signalling molecules and stably and widely exist in various body fluids, such as plasma, saliva, cerebrospinal fluid, breast milk, urine, semen, lymphatic fluid, synovial fluid, amniotic fluid, and sputum. EVs transport almost all types of bioactive molecules (DNA, mRNAs, microRNAs (miRNAs), proteins, metabolites, and even pharmacological compounds). These “cargoes” can act on recipient cells, reshaping the surrounding microenvironment and altering distant targets, ultimately affecting their biological behaviour. The extensive exploration of EVs has deepened our comprehensive understanding of HNSCC biology.
In this review, we not only summarized the effect of HNSCC-derived EVs on the tumour microenvironment but also described the role of microenvironment-derived EVs in HNSCC and discussed how the “mutual dialogue” between the tumour and microenvironment mediates the growth, metastasis, angiogenesis, immune escape, and drug resistance of tumours. Finally, the clinical application of EVS in HNSCC was assessed.