Markers for nodal metastasis in head and neck squamous cell cancer

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2002 May;128(5):512-8. doi: 10.1001/archotol.128.5.512.


Objective: To identify markers that are relevant as predictors of lymph node metastasis in head and neck squamous cell cancer.

Design: Expression of p53, Rb, cyclin D1, E-cadherin, and epithelial cell adhesion molecule was examined using immunohistochemical analysis and traditional histological parameters, and the correlation of these markers with the histologically verified presence of regional metastases was determined.

Subjects: The study sample comprised 121 patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer from whom paraffin-embedded material of primary tumors was used.

Results: Lymph node metastasis was correlated with the loss of expression of Rb (P =.04) and marginally correlated with the loss of expression of E-cadherin (P =.06). If the results are broken down to subsites, loss of E-cadherin expression in oral cancer (P =.04) and absence of eosinophilic infiltration in laryngeal cancer (P =.003) correlated with nodal metastasis. None of the other markers correlated. A combination of relevant parameters did not result in a much stronger correlation.

Conclusions: The expression of the investigated genetic markers and histopathological features of primary tumors can supply limited information on the metastatic behavior of tumors. Although the use of markers for regional metastasis would be a welcome additional tool, these results do not warrant the use of these parameters for clinical decision making concerning the treatment of the neck in patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cadherins
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Cyclin D1