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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Nov;157(5):798-807. doi: 10.1177/0194599817709224. Epub 2017 Jun 13.

Tumor Metabolism in the Microenvironment of Nodal Metastasis in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

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1 Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
2 Department of Pathology, Anatomy, and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
3 Department of Radiation Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
4 Department of Medical Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
5 Department of Dermatology & Cutaneous Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Objective In many cancers, including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), different regions within a tumor have different metabolic phenotypes. Transfer of metabolites between compartments promotes tumor growth and aggressive behavior. Metabolic compartmentalization in HNSCC nodal metastases has not been studied, nor has its impact on extracapsular extension or clinical outcomes been determined. Study Design Retrospective analysis based on immunohistochemistry staining. Setting Tertiary care center. Subjects and Methods Primary tumors and nodal metastases from 34 surgically treated oral cavity HNSCC patients with extracapsular extension (ECE) were stained for monocarboyxlate transporter (MCT) 4, MCT1, translocase of outer mitochondrial membrane 20, and Ki-67. Strength of staining was assessed using a computer-assisted pathology algorithm. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) scores along with clinical factors were used to predict disease-free survival (DFS). Results Patterns of IHC staining showed metabolic compartmentalization both at the primary tumor sites and in nodal metastases. MCT4 staining in the perinodal stroma was significantly higher in specimens with ECE greater than 1 mm (macro-ECE, P = .01). Patients with high perinodal MCT4 staining were compared with those with low perinodal MCT4 staining. On multivariate analysis, only high perinodal MCT4 staining had a significant impact on DFS ( P = .02); patients with high perinodal MCT4 had worse survival. DFS was not significantly worsened by advancing T stage, N stage, ECE extent, or perineural invasion. Conclusion Oral HNSCC displays compartmentalized tumor metabolism at both primary and metastases. Greater cancer-associated stromal conversion around ECE, denoted by high stromal MCT4, may be a biomarker for aggressive disease and worsened DFS.


coupling; extracapsular extension; head and neck cancer; metabolism; metastasis

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