German scientists have identified a gene that has higher levels in colon cancer patients whose tumors are destined to spread. By initiating a signaling pathway in the cancer cell, MACC1 (Metastasis-Associated in Colon Cancer 1) promotes faster cell growth and cancer spread to distant sites in the body (metastasis) .
Their research was published online in Nature Medicine.
About a third of patients whose cancer is found in early stages will eventually have it spread to other organs. Measuring MACC1 may help doctors identify those patients, treat them more aggressively, and follow them more closely.
Cancer researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin studied tumor tissue from 103 patients with colorectal cancer. Sixty of those patients didn’t have any sign of cancer spread when they were diagnosed. Of the 60, 37 were alive and cancer-free five years later. They had low levels of MACC1 in their tumors.
On the other hand, 23 patients had cancer spread. They had higher tumor levels of MACC1.
Ulrike Stein and his colleagues concluded,
For clinical practice, MACC1 will be useful for the identification of poor prognosis subjects with colorectal cancer and is a promising new target for intervention in metastasis formation.
SOURCE: Stein et al., Nature Medicine, Advance Access December 21, 2008.