Detection of minimal residual cancer to investigate why oral tumors recur despite seemingly adequate treatment

M Partridge, S R Li, S Pateromichelakis, R Francis, E Phillips, X H Huang, F Tesfa-Selase, J D Langdon

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141 Citations (Scopus)


Improvements in surgery and radiotherapy techniques have led to only a modest increase in the 5-year survival rate for patients with head and neck cancer. This is because the pattern of clinical disease Is changing, such that locoregional recurrence now accounts for fewer treatment failures, but more patients develop a second primary cancer or distant metastatic disease, In this study, we have used the p53 phage plaque assay, immunocytochemistry, and mutational analysis to assess the contribution of minimal residual cancer and genetic aberrations in clinically normal upper aerodigestive tract mucosa to treatment failure. Eighteen consecutive patients with oral tumors, with conventional clear margins, have been followed for a minimum of 36 months, Molecular assessment identified tumor-positive surgical margins for 6 of 11 assessable patients and additional tumor-positive lymph nodes for three cases. Disseminated malignant cells were detected in the hematopoietic cell compartment for six cases, and one patient had molecular evidence of field cancerization, Locoregional recurrence developed in five patients with tumors harboring a p53 gene mutation; four of these were associated with tumor-positive surgical margins, and one was associated with molecular evidence of field cancerization. Radiotherapy to the primary site did not prevent development of local recurrence when the residual tumor harbored ap53 gene mutation, Three of six cases with a tumor-positive bone marrow aspirate developed distant metastases, These findings reveal that molecular and immunocytochemical detection of minimal residual cancer and field cancerization can help identify patients who may develop locoregional or distant recurrence and justify further studies to evaluate the contribution of these remaining malignant cells to treatment failure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2718 - 2725
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


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