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Clinicopathological predictors of lymphatic metastasis in HNSCC: implications for molecular mechanisms of metastatic disease
Tovë M. Goldson, Yimei Han, Kristen B. Knight, Heidi L. Weiss and Vicente A. Resto

Lymphatic metastasis is associated with up to a 50% decrease in survival, yet the molecular mechanisms driving their establishment remain poorly understood. This study assessed clinicopathological characteristics correlated to nodal metastasis among patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma for the identification of pathways on which to focus molecular studies. Pathology records were queried for cases diagnosed with invasive squamous cell cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract between 1993 and 2003. Charts and pathology reports were scored for 16 characteristics. The univariate association of each variable with lymph node status was assessed. Based on the univariate analysis, a multiple logistic regression model was developed to assess the simultaneous association of variables with lymph node status. Of the 644 cases identified, 234 had a surgical specimen analyzed. All variables were scored for 185 of the 234 cases. Multivariate stepwise regression analysis identified clinical stage (p = 0.0269), pathologic stage (p = 0.0162), grade (p = 0.0094), lymphovascular invasion (p = 0.0393), and family history of cancer (p = 0.0079) as independently predictive of lymphatic metastases. Our study confirms that grade, pathologic stage, clinical stage, and lymphovascular invasion are predictors of regional metastasis. These correlations suggest that studying the molecular mechanisms of differentiation, interstitial pressure at the primary tumor site, and peritumoral lymphangiogenesis may provide insight into lymphatic metastasis. Additionally, we identified family history of cancer as a new predictor of lymphatic metastasis. Thus, genetic analysis of families with cancer, irrespective of type, may identify genes important for regional metastasis.

Keywords: Lymph node metastasis, oropharynx, squamous cell carcinoma, head and neck cancer, clinicopathological predictors, translational research

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