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Keywords:

  • oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma;
  • matted nodes;
  • prognosis;
  • biomarkers;
  • lymph node metastasis

Abstract

Background

Despite better prognosis, there is a group of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) human papillomavirus (HPV)+ patients who experience treatment failure and succumb to distant metastasis.

Methods

Seventy-eight previously untreated patients nested in a concurrent chemoradiation protocol were reviewed to correlate patterns of local-regional tumor extent to distant metastasis. Biomarker assessment was: HPV in situ hybridization and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) immunointensity.

Results

The 3-year disease-specific survival (DSS) for patients presenting with and without matted nodes was 69% and 94%, respectively (p = .003). Matted nodes were a poor prognostic factor independent of T classification, HPV, EGFR, and smoking status. For patients who were HPV+, 7 of 11 died of distant metastasis and 6 of 7 with distant metastasis had matted nodes.

Conclusion

Matted nodes are a novel marker of poor prognosis in oropharyngeal SCC independent of established prognostic factors. Matted nodes may identify patients at risk for the development of distant metastasis who could benefit from systemic therapy, whereas patients without matted nodes may be candidates for de-escalation of therapy. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2012