Cancer of the Colon and Rectum : Prognostic Factors and Early Detection

Abstract: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common causes of death from malignant disease. Nevertheless, no ideal screening method exists and there is a lack of prognostic and predictive factors to support clinical decisions and to aid the development of a more individualized treatment for patients with CRC. The aim of this thesis was to investigate early detection, prognostic and predictive factors of CRC. In the first paper, a novel method to collect cells for DNA quantification from the rectal mucosa was investigated. The sensitivity and specificity of this test to detect CRC or any pathology in colon and rectum were ultimately too low to be acceptable. In the second paper, the prognostic value of growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF 15) was evaluated in patients curatively operated for colorectal cancer. GDF 15 expression was demonstrated to be associated with a negative prognosis in patients with stages I-III and III disease. In the third paper, the prognostic value of BRAF, PIK3CA KRAS and MSI was evaluated in a cohort of patients with CRC stratified by disease and recurrence. The results indicated that patients with CRC stage III without recurrence have a higher frequency of BRAF mutation compared to stage III patients with recurrence. In the fourth paper, histopathological predictors of pathologic complete response (pCR) as well as the association between pre-treatment carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels and pCR in non-smoking and smoking patients receiving preoperative chemo-radiotherapy for rectal cancer were evaluated. Only in non-smokers was a low CEA level significantly associated with pCR, suggesting that the predictive value of CEA for pCR in rectal cancer in smokers can be limited. In sum, this research has investigated a new method for CRC detection and further evaluated the clinical use of prognostic and predictive markers in CRC.