Background and Objectives: The aim of this study is to clarify the extent of lymphatic spread of cancer cells using a novel genetic test to examine patients with thoracic esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Methods: A total of 35 patients who underwent an esophagectomy with three-field lymph node (LN) dissection were eligible. The regional LN stations were categorized into the cervical (C), recurrent nerve (RN), paraesophageal (PE), tracheo-bronchial (TB), and perigastric (PG) nodes. Lymphatic spread was pathologically diagnosed with Hematoxylin-Eosin (HE) and anti-cytokeratin immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining, and CEA-mRNA expression was examined using the transcription-reverse transcription concerted (TRC) reaction. Results: The rates of lymphatic spread with HE, IHC, and TRC were 7.2%, 10.1%, and 55.5%, respectively. The number of CEA-mRNA(+) LN stations significantly correlated with tumor depth, LN metastasis diagnosed by HE, and vascular invasions. CEA-mRNA expression was observed in 42.9%, 94.3%, 77.1%, 80.0%, and 82.9% of C, RN, TB, PE, and PG nodes, respectively. Conclusions: The high frequency of CEA-mRNA expression suggests that systemic therapy is necessary in addition to esophagectomy with adequate LN dissection. Conversely, a relatively low frequency of CEA-mRNA expression in the C node does not support the routine dissection of the LNs in this area.
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