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Br J Cancer. 2006 Apr 24;94(8):1164-9.

Detection of occult carcinomatous diffusion in lymph nodes from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma using real-time RT-PCR detection of cytokeratin 19 mRNA.

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Service d'ORL et Chirurgie Cervico-Faciale, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI, Hôpital Tenon APHP, 4 rue de la Chine, Paris 75020, France.


The aim of the present study was to evaluate the occult lymph node carcinomatous diffusion in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). A total of 1328 lymph nodes from 31 patients treated between 2004 and 2005 were prospectively evaluated by routine haematoxylin-eosin-safran (HES) staining, immunohistochemistry (IHC) and real-time Taqman reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (real-time RT-PCR) assay. Amplification of cytokeratin 19 (CK19) mRNA transcripts using real-time RT-PCR was used to quantify cervical micrometastatic burden. The cervical lymph node metastatic rates determined by routine HES staining and real-time RT-PCR assay were 16.3 and 36.0%, respectively (P<0.0001). A potential change in the nodal status was observed in 13 (42.0%) of the 31 patients and an atypical pattern of lymphatic spread was identified in four patients (12.9%). Moreover, CK19 mRNA expression values in histologically positive lymph nodes were significantly higher than those observed in histologically negative lymph nodes (P<0.0001). These results indicate that real-time RT-PCR assay for the detection of CK19 mRNA is a sensitive and reliable method for the detection of carcinomatous cells in lymph nodes. This type of method could be used to reassess lymph node status according to occult lymphatic spread in patients with HNSCC.

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