Abnormal DNA content of cancer cells in a primary tumor is thought to reflect the altered proliferative capacity of that cancer and overall patient prognosis. Recently, increased DNA content has been associated with early tumor recurrence in patients with advanced laryngeal cancer. To determine if DNA content correlates with a tumor’s metastatic behavior, 94 previously untreated patients with stage III (n = 54) or stage IV (n = 40) squamous carcinoma of the larynx were prospectively studied. The adjusted DNA index (aDI) of the primary tumor was measured by computerized cytomorphometry, and correlations with regional metastases, number of positive nodes, extracapsular spread, and pattern of relapse were determined. Median follow-up was 35 months. Of 94 patients, 73 underwent neck dissection. Positive nodes were found in 51 patients (70%) and three or more positive nodes were found in 31 patients (42%). High aDI (>.024) was significantly associated with the presence and number of histologically positive nodes (P = .016). Among patients with high aDI, 19 (50%) of 38 had three or more nodes positive compared to 12 (21%) of 56 of those with low aDI. Median aDI levels in patients with three or more nodes were significantly higher than in patients with 1 or 2 nodes (P = .003). Time to recurrence was shorter in patients with high aDI (P = .0078). These findings provide further evidence that increased DNA content is associated with more aggressive laryngeal cancers having high rates of multiple lymph node metastases and worse overall prognosis.
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