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Br J Cancer. 2004 May 17;90(10):1976-82.

Can a genetic signature for metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma be characterised by comparative genomic hybridisation?

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Postgraduate Medical Institute of the University of Hull, Hull and York Medical School, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull HU16 5JQ, UK.

Erratum in

  • Br J Cancer. 2004 Aug 31;91(5):1001. James, NE Ashman [corrected to Ashman, JNE].


Survival from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has remained static for the last 20 years. The development of lymph node metastasis (LNM) significantly reduces the 5-year survival rate, thus the ability to identify tumours with the potential to metastasise would allow more aggressive treatment regimes to be directed at these patients regardless of negative clinical and radiological findings at the time of presentation. Comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) can identify chromosomal aberrations that may lead to metastasis. DNA from 23-paired specimens of primary tumour (PT) and LNM were analysed. Nonrandom copy number changes were identified in all paired samples. Similar numbers of aberrations were identified on PT and LNM samples. The most common aberrations were 3q (90%), 8q (65%), 1q (50%), 5p (43%), 2q (41%) and 11q (41%) and deletions 3p (57%), 1p (54%), 4p (48%), 13q (48%), 11q (41%) and 10q (37%). A number of differences were also detected. No aberration was found to be preferentially associated with the LNM, although gains on 6q (48 vs 22%) and 22q (26 vs 9%) were found at higher frequencies. Clonality studies demonstrated that LNM develop from the dominant population of cells in the PT. These results were compared with two similar publications. No combination of chromosomal aberrations, as detected by CGH, was associated with metastatic progression in HNSCC.

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