Background. Immunosuppressive prostaglandins may play a role in the biologic behavior of head and neck cancer. Increased levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) have been measured in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

Methods. To address this question, tissue levels of PGE2 were measured in tumor tissues, normal mucosa, and lymph nodes of 37 patients undergoing tumor resections. Tissue specimens were placed in culture media, and levels of PGE2 released into the supernatant were measured by radioimmunoassay.

Results. Tissue levels of PGE2 were significantly greater in tumor and normal mucosal tissues compared to lymph nodes (p = 0.0003). There was no difference between metastatic and tumor-free lymph nodes. Although tumor tissue levels of PGE2 were not associated with tumor stage, increased levels of PGE2 were associated with increased 2-year disease-free survival (p = 0.02).

Conclusions. Although PGE2 may have adverse effects on local immune function in tumor tissues, improved survival of patients with increased local PGE2 production may be indicative of an enhanced immunologic response to the tumor which has a favorable impact on outcome. © 1995 Jons Wiley & Sons, Inc.