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Acta Oncol. 2008;47(6):1054-61. doi: 10.1080/02841860801942158.

Prognostic significance of numeric aberrations of genes for thymidylate synthase, thymidine phosphorylase and dihydrofolate reductase in colorectal cancer.

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Department of Oncology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Most human cancer cells have structural aberrations of chromosomal regions leading to loss or gain of gene specific alleles. This study aimed to assess the range of gene copies per nucleus of thymidylate synthase (TYMS), thymidine phosphorylase (TP) and dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) in colorectal cancer, and to evaluate its prognostic significance following adjuvant chemotherapy, since these enzymes are closely related to efficacy of 5-fluorouracil (5FU).


Consecutive patients (n = 314), who were completely resected for colorectal cancer stages II-IV and adjuvantly treated with 5-FU were retrospectively evaluated. Paraffin embedded tumor specimens were assessed for gene copies per nucleus of TYMS, TP and DHFR by fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) using specific peptide nucleic acid probes. Outcome according to gene copies per nucleus above and below the median were compared. Also TYMS expression, assessed by immunohistochemistry, was associated with TYMS copies per nucleus.


The number of gene copies per nucleus were 1.7 (0.7-2.8), 1.8 (0.9-3.1) and 1.8 (1.1-2.7) median (range) for TYMS, TP and DHFR, respectively. TYMS expression was directly associated with TYMS genes per nucleus (p = 0.05). Cox multivariate analysis, adjusted for the prognostic impact of disease stage, vascular tumor invasion, and bowel obstruction at resection, revealed that high TYMS gene copy number was associated with significantly higher risk of recurrence (HR = 1.6; 95%CI 1.1-2.2; p = 0.02) and death (HR = 1.6; 95%CI 1.1-2.3; p = 0.01). No significant differences in outcome appeared according to TP and DHFR gene ratios.


Aberration of TYMS gene is of significance to expression of TYMS, which may influence the biology and 5-FU sensitivity of colorectal cancer. This may be utilized in the allocation of patients for treatment approaches and for decision on follow-up programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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