BACKGROUND: Good prognostic indicators for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the lung would help to determine the most appropriate treatment for individual patients. METHODS: A silver colloid technique that shows interphase nucleolar organiser regions (AgNORs) has been applied to representative paraffin sections from 138 cases of squamous cell carcinoma of the bronchus treated by surgical resection of the primary tumour at East Birmingham Hospital in 1977. Of the 138 patients, 23 (17%) were alive 10 years after their operation. RESULTS: The mean (SD) AgNOR count per cell was significantly higher for all grades of malignancy (well differentiated 10.5 (2.6), moderately differentiated 10.7 (3.2), and poorly differentiated 12.7 (4.5)) than for normal pseudostratified columnar epithelium from non-affected areas (2.3 (0.78)). There was a trend for AgNOR counts to be higher in poorly differentiated tumours, but a wide range of AgNOR counts was observed in all histological grades. AgNOR counts did not predict clinical outcome, irrespective of the stage of the disease, and did not relate to DNA ploidy or the percentage of cells in the proliferation phase of the cell cycle. Nine of 47 patients (19%) with tumours classified as DNA diploid and eight of 63 patients (13%) with DNA aneuploid tumours were alive 10 years after operation. Principal component analysis identified the clinicopathological stage of disease as the variable best related to survival. The percentage of patients surviving 10 years was 30% for stage I, 20% for stage II, 10% for stage IIIa, 9% for stage IIIb, and none for stage IV. CONCLUSION: The AgNOR technique is not of prognostic value in postoperative patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the bronchus.
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