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J Surg Res. 2002 Sep;107(1):75-81.

Cytokeratin deposits in lymph nodes show distinct clinical significance from lymph node micrometastasis in human esophageal cancers.

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Department of Surgery, Osaka Medical Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, Japan.



Cytokeratin immunostaining is the most common method used to identify micrometastatic cancer cells from the lymph nodes. However, contamination with hyalinized cytokeratin particles, frequently observed in the lymph nodes of esophageal cancer patients, can lead to misinterpretation of cytokeratin immunostaining.


Cytokeratin immunostaining (AE1/AE3) of surgically removed lymph nodes was performed for 41 cases of node-negative, but locally advanced (T3, T4), esophageal cancer patients. Cytokeratin immunoreactivity (CK) was classified as micrometastasis (MM) or cytokeratin deposit (CD) by the presence or absence of tumor nuclei in serial sections given hematoxylin-eosin staining.


CK (+) was observed in 18 patients (44%), including 11 with MM (+) (27%) and 10 with CD (+) (24%). There was no correlation between MM and CD, and neither was associated with clinicopathological factors, except for a high incidence of preoperative chemotherapy in CD (+) patients. The presence of CK did not affect postoperative survival of esophageal cancer patients at this limited stage, showing a 5-year survival rate of 57% for CK (+) and 64% for CK (-) (P = 0.6064). Interestingly, patients with MM (+) showed poorer prognosis than MM (-) (5-year survival: 28% vs 79%, P = 0.0188), while CD (+) patients tended to display better prognosis than CD (-) ones (5-year survival: 78% vs 56%, P = 0.1860).


Evaluation by cytokeratin immunostaining of lymph nodes requires careful discrimination of CD from MM, in order to allow MM to be used as a prognostic factor for esophageal cancer patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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