ORLANDO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Sentinel node biopsies may be a useful staging tool for patients with cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.

These patients – especially those with compromised immune systems – appear to be at sufficiently high risk of metastasis to justify the procedure, Dr. Jonathan Lopez said at the annual meeting of the American College of Mohs Surgery.

“We found that sentinel lymph node biopsy in our clinic had a 91% negative predictive value for local recurrence, nodal recurrence, and disease-specific death. It provides valuable prognostic information for patients at increased risk of nodal metastasis,” said Dr. Lopez, a dermatology resident at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

He and his associates conducted a chart review of 24 patients treated at the Mayo Clinic from 2000 to 2014 for a cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the head or neck. Of these, 11 patients were immunosuppressed. Five had undergone a kidney transplant and three a lung transplant. One patient had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one had cutaneous lymphocytic leukemia, and one, metastatic urothelial carcinoma.

Before sentinel node biopsy, eight patients had a wide local excision; 12 were treated with Mohs micrographic surgery only; and four had a Mohs procedure followed by resection for better margins.

The biopsies identified two patients with nodal disease, but failed to identify a third who had it, Dr. Lopez said.

Patient No. 1 had a primary SCC on the nasal tip that was stage 2, according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer ( AJCC ) staging system, and 2b according to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) system. He had undergone a prior double lung transplant and his lymph node dissection showed no nodal metastasis. He declined radiotherapy and died within 2 months of the biopsy, of unclear causes that were not related to his skin cancer.

Patient No. 2 had a primary lesion on the right cheek, and a history of kidney transplant. His cancer was stage 2 by the AJCC system and 2b by the BWH system. His lymph node dissection of the right parotid and neck was negative. At last follow-up of 3.5 years, he was cancer free. However, Dr. Lopez noted, the patient died at 4 years’ follow-up of unknown causes.

The final patient had a primary lesion on the right conchal bowl. It was a stage 2 cancer by the AJCC system and 2a by the BWH system. His sentinel node biopsy was negative. However, the otolaryngologist who performed the biopsy also took seven superficial parotid nodes and one of those was positive. This patient had no recurrence at the last visit, 1.5 years after the biopsy.

The sentinel node biopsies were negative in the 21 other patients. Of these, 14 had no evidence of recurrence at a mean of 3 years’ follow-up after the sentinel lymph node biopsy. Two developed local recurrence and two others, both of whom had a history of multiple squamous cell carcinomas, developed nodal spread and died of metastatic disease. Three have died of causes unrelated to their cancer.

Dr. Lopez had no financial disclosures.


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