OBJECTIVE: MET positivity is independently associated with survival in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Since MET is a known orchestrator of invasive tumor growth, we investigated its association with LNM in early oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma (OTSCC). As it is recommended by the NCCN to use tumor depth of invasion (DOI) in making decisions on elective neck dissection (END), the results obtained for MET positivity were aligned with those for DOI > 4 mm. The cutoff value used in our institution.
METHODS: Tumor samples from patients who underwent primary tumor resection and neck dissection between 1995 and 2013, were collected from the archives of the Leiden and Erasmus University Medical Center. Immunohistochemistry with D1C2 was performed to identify MET negative (< 10% uniform positivity) and MET positive (≥ 10% uniform positivity) cancers. ROC curve analysis and the Chi-squared test were used to investigate the association of MET positivity with LNM (pN+ and occult). Binary logistic regression was used to investigate the association of MET positivity with LNM.
RESULTS: Forty-five (44.1%) of the 102 cancers were MET positive. Ninety were cN0 of which 20 were pN+ (occult metastasis). The remaining 12 cancers were cN+, of which 10 were proven pN+ and 2 were pN0. MET positivity was associated with LNM with a positive predictive value (PPV) of 44.4% and a negative predictive value (NPV) of 82.5% for pN+. For the occult group, the PPV was 36.8% and the NPV was 88.5%. Regression analysis showed that MET positivity is associated with pN+ and occult LNM ( p-value < 0.05).
CONCLUSION: MET positivity is significantly associated with LNM in early OTSCC, outperforming DOI. The added value of MET positivity could be in the preoperative setting when END is being considered during the initial surgery. For cases with DOI ≤ 4 mm, MET positivity could aid in the clinical decision whether regular follow-up, watchful waiting, or END is more appropriate. Realizing that these preliminary results need to be independently validated in a larger patient cohort, we believe that MET positivity could be of added value in the decision making on END in early OTSCC.
- depth of invasion
- elective neck dissection
- occult lymph node metastasis
- oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma