Complex karyotypes in flow cytometrically DNA-diploid squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck

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In squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN), DNA ploidy as determined by flow cytometry (FCM) has been found to yield prognostic information but only for tumours at oral sites. Cytogenetic findings have indicated complex karyotype to be a correlate of poor clinical outcome. In the present study, 73 SCCHN were investigated with the two techniques. Aneuploid cell populations were identified in 49 (67%) cases by FCM but in only 21 (29%) cases by cytogenetic analysis. The chromosome index (CI), calculated as the mean chromosome number divided by 46, was compared with the respective DNA index (DI) obtained by FCM in 15 tumours, non-diploid according to both techniques, DI being systematically 12% higher than CI in this subgroup. Eight (33%) of the 24 tumours diploid according to FCM had complex karyotypes, three of the tumours being cytogenetically hypodiploid, three diploid and two non-diploid. The findings in the present study may partly explain the low prognostic value of ploidy status as assessed by FCM that has been observed in SCCHN. In addition, we conclude that FCM yields information of the genetic changes that is too unspecific, and that cytogenetic analysis shows a high rate of unsuccessful investigations, thus diminishing the value of the two methods as prognostic factors in SCCHN.

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