Should total number of lymph nodes be used as a quality of care measure for stage III colon cancer?

Jiping Wang, Mahmoud Kulaylat, Howard Rockette, James Hassett, Ashwani Rajput, Kelli Bullard Dunn, Merril Dayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To assess whether TNODS is an independent prognostic factor after adjusting for the lymph node ratio (LNR). SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: The medical literature has suggested that the TNODS is associated with better survival in stage II and III colon cancer. Thus TNODS was endorsed as a quality measure for patient care by American College of Surgeons, National Quality Forum. There is, however, little biologic rationale to support this linkage. METHODS: A total of 24,477 stage III colon cancer patients were identified from Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registry and categorized into 4 groups, LNR1 to LNR4, according to LNR interval: <0.07, 0.07 to 0.25, 0.25 to 0.50, and >0.50. Patients were also stratified according to TNODS into high TNODS (-12) and low TNODS (<12) groups. The method of Kaplan-Meier was used to estimate the 5-year survival and the log-rank test was used to test the survival difference among the different groups. RESULTS: Patients with high TNODS have better survival compared with those with low TNODS (5-year survival 51.0% vs. 45.0%, P < 0.0001). However, after stratifying by LNR status, there was no significant survival difference between patients with high TNODS and those with low TNODS within strata LNR2 (5-year survival 56.3% vs. 56.0%, P =0.26). Ironically, patients with high TNODS had significantly worse survival than those with low TNODS within strata LNR3 (5-year survival 41.2% vs. 47.4%, P =0.0009) and LNR 4 (5-year survival 22.0% vs. 32.1%, P < 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: The previously reported prognostic effect of TNODS on node-positive colon cancer was confounded by LNR. This observation calls into question the use of TNODS as a quality measure for colon cancer patients' care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-563
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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