To analyze the impact of the lymph node ratio (LNR, ratio of metastatic to examined nodes) on the prognosis of hypopharyngeal cancer patients.
SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results)-registered hypopharyngeal cancer patients with lymph node metastasis were evaluated using multivariate Cox regression analysis to identify the prognostic role of the LNR. The categorical LNR was compared with the continuous LNR and pN classifications to predict cause-specific survival (CSS) and overall survival (OS) rates of hypopharyngeal cancer patients.
Multivariate analysis of 916 pN+ hypopharyngeal cancer cases identified race, primary site, radiation sequence, T classification, N classification, M classification, the number of regional lymph nodes examined, the continuous LNR (Hazard ratio 2.415, 95% CI 1.707–3.416, P<0.001) and age as prognostic variables that were associated with CSS in hypopharyngeal cancer. The categorical LNR showed a higher C-index and lower Akaike information criterion (AIC) value than the continuous LNR. When patients (n = 1152) were classified into four risk groups according to LNR, R0 (LNR = 0), R1 (LNR ≤0.05), R2 (LNR 0.05–0.30) and R3 (LNR >0.30), the Cox regression model for CSS and OS using the R classification had a higher C-index value and lower AIC value than the model using the pN classification. Significant improvements in both CSS and OS were found for R2 and R3 patients with postoperative radiotherapy.
LNR is a significant prognostic factor for the survival of hypopharyngeal cancer patients. Using the cutoff points 0.05/0.30, the R classification was more accurate than the pN classification in predicting survival and can be used to select high risk patients for postoperative treatment.