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New Biomarker for Colorectal Cancer Could Help Predict Whether Disease Will Spread

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Key Points

  • Recurrent stage I/II primary colorectal cancer showed a significantly lower FOXO3 expression compared with stage-matched nonrecurrent tumors.
  • Mean disease-free survival in tissue samples with low FOXO3 expression was 28 vs 64 months in the high-expression group.
  • FOXO3 may represent a novel biomarker of nodal and distant disease metastasis in colorectal cancer.

Scientists have identified a protein that could play a crucial role in recognizing whether patients with colorectal cancer are candidates for chemotherapy due to a high risk of their cancer spreading, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Cancer. Scientists at the University of Southampton found that patients with low levels of the protein FOXO3, had an increased risk of metastasis.

By comparing levels of FOXO3 in tissue samples from patients with different stages of colorectal cancer, the researchers found the protein was a good predictor of how aggressive a tumor is. Decreasing levels of the FOXO3 were linked to more aggressive cancers. Compared with stage-matched nonrecurrent tumors, recurrent stage I/II primary tumors showed a significantly lower FOXO3 expression. Mean disease-free survival in tissue samples with low FOXO3 expression was 28 months (95% confidence interval [CI] = 15.8–50.6) vs 64 months (95% CI = 52.9–75.4) in the high-expression group.

Potential Target for Drug Development

Study author Marc Bullock, Medical Research Council Clinical Research Training Fellow and bowel cancer surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, said, “Our findings suggest that looking at levels of FOXO3 could help single out which patients need extra treatment to help stop their cancer from coming back, as well as being a good potential target for drug development. Although other studies have looked at the role of FOXO3 in stopping tumors [from] growing, this is the first time that such a clear link between levels of the protein and tumor growth has been identified.”

Alexander Mirnezami, BSc, BM, PhD, PCME, FRCS, coauthor and bowel cancer surgeon at Southampton General Hospital said, “As our research continues, we hope to identify [many] other new biomarkers that can help us adapt treatments based on individual patients’ tumor characteristics as part of a personalized approach to cancer treatment.”

The study was funded in part by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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