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Heterogeneity of Squamous Cell Carcinomas of the Head and Neck-Analysis of Tumor Biologic Factors and Proliferation Rates


  • Presented in part at the Fourth Research Workshop in the Biology, Treatment and Epidemiology of Squamous Cell Cancer, Arlington, Va., September 5-9, 1994.

  • This study was supported by a grant of the German Research Society (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG, Az.:We 1349/4-1).


Specimens obtained from five different tumor regions in 12 patients who underwent surgery for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the oropharynx were examined. The evaluation of each biopsy included quantitative DNA measurements based on image analysis, immunohistochemical assessment of proliferations markers (i.e., Ki67-MIB1, proliferating cell nuclear antigen [PCNA]), and morphological tumorfront grading. From single cell measurements, several DNA indices were derived which are known to reflect tumor aneuploidy.

The results revealed a marked variation of proliferation and cellular differentiation in different regions of tumors and a wide intraindividual variation between particular tumors for all markers examined. There was good correlation between DNA data and proliferative cell fractions (Ki67 score, PCNA score). With the use of diagrams, three-dimensional distribution of proliferation rates and markers reflecting tumor aggressiveness within each tumor was obtained.

The results confirmed previous clinical and histological observations that SCCs of the oropharynx are heterogeneous tumors. One might expect that the regions with increased proliferation and aggressiveness may predict the location of possible tumor recurrence.