Second esophageal tumors in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: An assessment of clonal relationships

Joseph Califano, Paul L. Leong, Wayne Martin Koch, Claus F. Eisenberger, David Sidransky, William H. Westra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) often develop second carcinomas elsewhere in the upper aerodigestive tract. Some of these paired tumors share a common origin, reflecting the ability of a single progenitor cell to replicate, expand, and populate contiguous regions of the upper aerodigestive tract-a process referred to as clonal expansion. The geographical limitations of clonal expansion, however, have not been adequately addressed. For example, it is not known whether a neoplastic clone from the oral cavity, pharynx, or larynx can migrate to the esophagus. We compared paired tumors from 16 patients with HNSCC and a second squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus (ESCC) for patterns of allelic loss on chromosomal arms 3p, 9p, and 17p. Losses at these loci occur early during neoplastic transformation of the respiratory tract. In 14 cases (87%), the paired tumors had discordant patterns of allelic loss, suggesting that these tumors were not clonally related. Conversely, two (13%) of the 16 paired tumors had identical genetic alterations, which suggests clonal expansion as the mechanism underlying tumor multifocality. One clone spread from the hypopharynx into the cervical esophagus, and the other spread from the tonsil to the distal esophagus. Although most second ESCCs appear to arise as independent neoplasms, a clonal population of neoplastic cells is capable of traveling across substantial distances to give rise to second tumors at different anatomical sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1862-1867
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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