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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.

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1
Department of Clinical Physiopathology, University of Torino School of Medicine, Torino, Italy. mfdirenzo@ircc.unito.it

Abstract

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.

PMID:
10861506
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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