We examined the possibility of using microsatellite alterations as markers to detect clonal tumor-derived cell populations in histopathologically negative surgical margins and cervical lymph nodes from head and neck cancer (HNC) patients. We used polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based microsatellite analysis DNA to analyze primary tumors, paired surgical margins, and cervical lymph nodes from 41 HNC patients. Samples were scored for alterations as defined by the presence of new alleles (shifts) or loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at each of 10 markers. We identified 25 (61%) patients with primary HNC who appeared to have had a complete resection on the basis of the histopathological assessment and who were informative regarding microsatellite alterations in tumor tissue. In 11 of these 25 (44%) cases, PCR analysis of surgical margins showed the same microsatellite alterations as in the primary tumors. In 7 of these 11 patients, the carcinoma recurred locally, as compared with 1 out of 14 patients with negative margins (log rank test, P = 0.0049). Conversely, we were unable to detect clonal neoplastic cells in histopathologically negative lymph nodes examined by molecular analysis. Cox regression analysis showed that molecular positive margins were an independent prognostic factor (P = 0.04) for recurrence. This study demonstrates that microsatellite analysis may be a valuable tool for evaluating the risk of local recurrence.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.