WASHINGTON – Chemokine receptor CCR7 expression is a significant predictor of cervical metastases in patients with squamous cell carcinoma in the oral cavity, based on data from 60 adults.
Metastatic spread of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is common, but the mechanisms behind the spread remain unclear, said Dr. Levi G. Ledgerwood of the University of California, Davis. "There has been a great deal of work that has looked at lymphocyte entry into lymphatics," he said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
Recent research has focused on the chemokine receptor CCR7, a cell-surface molecule that is required for T-cell entry from the bloodstream and peripheral tissues into lymphatics, he noted. Data from previous studies suggest that CCR7 might play a role in various cancers in the metastases of the lymph nodes.
Dr. Ledgerwood and his colleagues reviewed tissue samples from primary tumors in 60 oral SCC patients who underwent surgical resection at a single center between 2006 and 2011. The study included 30 samples from patients with metastases and 30 samples from patients without metastases. There were no significant demographic differences between the groups, although each group had more male than female patients, Dr. Ledgerwood noted. A total of 30 patients were node positive, and 30 were node negative.
Overall, patients with cervical metastases showed significantly higher CCR7 expression than those without cervical metastases (P less than .001). A total of 97% of node-positive patients were positive for CCR7 expression, but only 43% of patients without cervical metastases were positive for CCR7.
When the lymph nodes of the samples from metastatic cancer patients were examined, all 30 node-positive patients showed expression of CCR7, Dr. Ledgerwood added.
Although the study was limited by its small size, the results suggest a possible role for CCR7 in T-cell access to lymphatics, said Dr. Ledgerwood.
"This is a preliminary study, but we feel that this receptor could provide a very interesting target for future drug therapies and could also help in predicting the behavior of tumors," he said.
Dr. Ledgerwood had no financial conflicts to disclose.