Objective: In an attempt to identify molecular markers predictive of occult neck metastases, we investigated whether positive p53 or proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) immunoreactivities on deparaffinized sections of the primary tumor are correlated to the presence of occult neck node metastases in oral tongue cancer patients with clinically negative cervical nodes (N0). Study design and setting: Between 1986 and 1997, 37 clinically N0 patients who underwent neck dissection (25 male, 12 female; mean age 54 years) were selected for p53 and PCNA staining. Results: p53 and PCNA immunoreactivities were detected in 68% and 32%, respectively. There was no correlation between p53 or PCNA and other clinicopathological factors, such as tumor differentiation, tumor type, tumor size, and T-stage. Although tumor differentiation (P = 0.03) and tumor size (P = 0.03) were significantly correlated with occult neck metastases of oral tongue cancer by univariate analysis, no correlation was found between p53 or PCNA and the presence of occult neck metastasis. Conclusion: p53 and/or PCNA expression are unsuitable as biological markers predictive of lymph node metastases of oral tongue cancer. Significance: p53- or PCNA-positive status are not a reliable parameter for selection of elective neck dissection in the management of N0 oral tongue cancer patients.
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