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The principal role of sentinel lymph node (SLN) sampling and ultrastaging in colon cancer is enhanced staging accuracy. The utility of this technique for patients with colon cancer remains controversial.This multicenter randomized trial was conducted to determine if focused assessment of the SLN with step sectioning and immunohistochemistry (IHC) enhances the ability to stage the regional nodal basin over conventional histopathology in patients with resectable colon cancer.Between August 2002 and April 2006 we randomly assigned 161 patients with stage I–III colon cancer to standard histopathologic evaluation or SLN mapping (ex vivo, subserosal, peritumoral, 1% isosulfan blue dye) and ultrastaging with pan-cytokeratin IHC in conjunction with standard histopathology. SLN-positive disease was defined as individual tumor cells or cell aggregates identified by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and/or IHC. Primary end point was the rate of nodal upstaging.Significant nodal upstaging was identified with SLN ultrastaging (Control vs. SLN: 38.7% vs. 57.3%, P = 0.019). When SLNs with cell aggregates ≤0.2 mm in size were excluded, no statistically significant difference in node-positive rate was apparent between the control and SLN arms (38.7% vs. 39.0%, P = 0.97). However, a 10.7% (6/56) nodal upstaging was identified by evaluation of H&E stained step sections of SLNs among study arm patients who would have otherwise been staged node-negative (N0) by conventional pathologic assessment alone.SLN mapping, step sectioning, and immunohistochemistry (IHC) identifies small volume nodal disease and improves staging in patients with resectable colon cancer. A prospective trial is ongoing to determine the clinical significance of colon cancer micrometastasis in sentinel lymph nodes.