Conclusions: The preliminary results reported here suggest that survivin expression in primary oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) may identify patients at risk of disease disseminating to neck lymph nodes. If these results are confirmed in larger series of patients it may imply that elective neck dissection should be considered in clinically N0 patients with oral and oropharyngeal SCCs who show high expression of survivin.
Objective: To investigate the expression of survivin, a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis proteins family, in patients with primary oral and oropharyngeal SCCs with and without neck lymph node metastases.
Material and methods: We considered 13 consecutive cases of oral and oropharyngeal SCCs with lymph node metastases (pN + ) and 13 cases of pN0 oral and oropharyngeal SCCs. The survivin reactivity of primary SCCs and lymph node metastases was evaluated immunohistochemically. A lesion was considered positive if >9.5% of the tumour cells showed diffuse strong staining.
Results: Sporadic groups of normal basal and parabasal epithelial cells showed weak survivin staining. In SCCs, a nuclear reaction predominated. Eight primary pN+ SCCs were survivin-positive (mean expression 34.7%), compared to 5 primary pN0 SCCs (mean expression 12.3%; p=0.017). Statistical analysis disclosed significantly higher survivin expression in primary oral and oropharyngeal SCCs that developed distant non-lymphatic metastases (p=0.012).