Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 131–135 | Cite as

Incidence of Micrometastasis and Isolated Tumour Cells in Clinicopathologically Node-Negative Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Kinjal Shankar MajumdarEmail author
  • Vishal U. S. Rao
  • Rachana Prasad
  • Veena Ramaswamy
  • Piyush Sinha
  • Anand Subash
Original Article



Occult neck node metastasis in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) in the form of micrometastasis and isolated tumour cell (ITC) often goes unnoticed in the routine pathological examination. This limitation can be overcome by using serial sectioning and immunohistochemistry for detection of micrometastasis and ITC in clinically and pathologically node-negative neck. The primary objective was to determine the incidence of micrometastasis and ITC in the selective neck dissection specimen, whereas to determine the levels of lymph nodes involved, depending upon the site of primary tumour, was the secondary objective.

Materials and Methods

Lymph nodes from selective neck dissection specimen were subjected to serial sectioning and immunohistochemistry with pan-cytokeratin marker. Incidence of micrometastasis and ITC, site and stage of primary tumours and level of lymph nodes involved were determined.


In total, 8.8% patients in the study got upstaged after serial sectioning and immunohistochemistry. Tongue and lower alveolar primaries showed the presence of micrometastasis and ITC in neck nodes. All the primary tumours were of pT1 stage. Level IB and II lymph nodes were primarily involved.


Micrometastasis and isolated tumour cells are found in approximately 9% of cases of early-stage oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma. The predictive factors and clinical significance are still unknown. More prospective trials are required to solve this evolving aspect of HNSCC.


Head and neck cancer Oral cancer Neck node metastasis Micrometastasis Isolated tumour cell Immunohistochemistry Pan-cytokeratin 



We thank Professor Ravi C Nayar, Dean Academics, HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru, and all the members of Institutional Scientific Research Committee for comments on design and methodology of the study that greatly improved the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional ethics committee (EC/329/17/03) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants enrolled in the study.


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Copyright information

© The Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons of India 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Surgical OncologyHCG EKO Cancer CentreKolkataIndia
  2. 2.Department of Head and Neck Surgical OncologyHCG Cancer CentreBengaluruIndia
  3. 3.Department of OtolaryngologyRajendra Institute of Medical SciencesRanchiIndia
  4. 4.Department of PathologyHCG Cancer CentreBengaluruIndia

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