Send to

Choose Destination
Int J Cancer. 2000 May 20;89(3):286-92.

Staging of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma using the MET oncogene product as marker of tumor cells in lymph node metastases.

Author information

Department of Clinical Physiopathology, University of Torino School of Medicine, Torino, Italy.


In head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), metastasis to cervical lymph nodes is a major determinant of patient outcome. To detect metastases, we used the MET oncogene as marker, which encodes the receptor for hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor, mediating epithelial cell motility and invasiveness. The MET gene is expressed in epithelia and over-expressed in carcinomas of specific histotypes, but not in lymphatic tissue. A total of 151 lymph nodes from 20 squamous cell carcinomas were studied with both in-depth histology and end-point and real-time quantitative RT-PCR. MET-encoded sequences were found in 61 of 151 nodes (40%), of which 24 (16%) were found metastatic by in-depth histopathology. Parallel routine histopathologic analysis of 654 lymph nodes from the same cases identified 36 metastases (5%). Real-time quantitative RT-PCR was used to measure MET gene-specific mRNA in normal tissues, primary tumors and lymphatic metastases and showed a 2-8-fold increased expression in tumor cells which metastasize. RT-PCR for 3 cytokeratins expressed in HNSCC (K4, K10 and K13) proved to be less sensitive in detecting occult lymphatic metastases. Western blot analysis demonstrated the presence of the full-size MET receptor in primary tumors and lymph node metastases; immunohistochemistry showed receptor localization in tumor cells. Altogether, these data demonstrate that the MET gene product is a valuable marker with which to detect occult tumor cells in lymph nodes, thanks to its high expression in metastatic cells. After RT-PCR analysis we were able to attribute a more advanced stage to 10 out of 20 HNSCC cases, including 5 cases classified as tumor-free after routine histopathology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center