Tumor metastasis to regional lymph nodes via the lymphatic system represents the first step of dissemination in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and serves as a major prognostic indicator for disease progression and as a guide for therapeutic strategies. In the current study, the authors investigated whether tumor lymphangiogenesis may be related to the risk of lymph node metastasis and to clinical outcome in patients with HNSCC.
Immunostaining for the lymphatic marker D2-40 was used, and lymphangiogenesis was quantified within the tumor and in the peritumoral area in 52 HNSCC specimens using computer-assisted morphometric analysis.
Lymphatic vessels were found to be significantly more numerous and larger in the peritumoral area compared with within the tumor, and the number and relative area of intratumoral and peritumoral lymphatics was significantly higher in HNSCC cases with lymph node metastasis. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that high peritumoral lymphangiogenesis (above the median value) was associated with an increased risk of developing lymph node metastasis. No correlation was found between tumor lymphangiogenesis and the disease-free or overall survival in the current series.
The results indicate that peritumoral lymphangiogenesis may be an indicator of the risk of lymph node metastasis in patients with HNSCC. Cancer 2004. © 2004 American Cancer Society.