Genetic profiling of stage I and II colorectal cancer may predict metastatic relapse.
A substantial number of patients with early-stage colorectal cancer relapse from metastatic disease. Identification of these patients by genetic profiling of their primary tumours may allow more informed follow-up and tailored administration of adjuvant therapy. Primary tumours from 70 patients with early-stage and largely microsatellite-stable colorectal cancer were profiled using metaphase-based comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and the aberrations confirmed independently in a subset of patients using microarray-based CGH. Of the 70 cancers, 61 were amenable to CGH, and follow-up data was available from 56 patients. Genomic aberrations were correlated with patients' survival using univariate, multivariate and Kaplan-Meier survival curves. Metastatic primary tumours exhibited more complex genomic aberrations than non-metastatic primary tumours. Loss of chromosome 4p was an independent prognostic factor in early-stage colorectal cancer using multivariate analysis (Hazard ratio, 9.6; 95% CI, 3.3-28; P = 0.0001). Loss of both chromosome arms 8p and 18q had a statistically significant negative effect on disease-free survival. Moreover, primary tumours with loss of both chromosomes 4 and 14q bestowed poorer prognosis than tumours with loss of any one of the two chromosomes (P<0.0001). Genetic profiling of primary tumours of patients with early-stage colorectal cancer is of significant value in identifying the subset of patients who may relapse with metastatic disease. Accordingly, the molecular genetic features of primary tumours should be considered in the mainstream management of patients with this specific stage of the disease.