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Oncol Res. 1999;11(9):437-45.

Marked variation of thymidylate synthase and folylpolyglutamate synthetase gene expression in human colorectal tumors.

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Dipartimento di Farmacologia Preclinica e Clinica, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy.


Patients with advanced colorectal cancer are currently being treated with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-based chemotherapy. A growing number of patients with resectable disease receive adjuvant therapy with 5-FU/levamisole (LEV) or 5-FU/folinic acid (LV). However, many patients still fail on these treatments, due to occurrence of natural or acquired tumor resistance. Among clinically relevant mechanisms of resistance to fluoropyrimidines, increased expression of thymidylate synthase (TS) has been emphasized. Another potentially relevant mechanism involves a decrease in folylpolyglutamate synthetase (FPGS) expression. To establish the value of these genes as prognostic factors and predictors of the outcome of 5-FU-based chemotherapy in colorectal cancer, we measured their expression in colorectal tumors from patients undergoing surgery and postoperative chemotherapy and compared it with that in normal colonic mucosa. This was done by a semi quantitative, nonradioisotopic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method using beta-actin as an internal standard and expressed as a TS/beta-actin or a FPGS/beta-actin mRNA ratio. In tumor samples from 21 colorectal cancer patients, TS gene expression varied 118-fold. The median TS/beta-actin ratio was, in fact, 41.36 x 10(-3) (range 2.49 x 10(-3) to 294.54 x 10(-3)). Little variation in TS gene expression was observed in corresponding normal colic mucosa; the TS/beta-actin gene ratio was lower (median 26.16 x 10(-3); range 8.49 x 10(-3) to 69.49 x 10(-3)). Among tumor explants from 20 patients, FPGS expression varied over 161-fold. A similar marked variation was also observed in normal colonic mucosal samples (over 185-fold). Overall and disease-free survival data suggest an inverse association between the level of tumor TS and FPGS expression and clinical prognosis. The availability of this sensitive and accurate assay for gene expression should now make it possible to extend these laboratory/clinical correlations to larger populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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