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Mol Med. 2015 Jul 17;21:597-604. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2014.00192.

Expression of Folate Pathway Genes in Stage III Colorectal Cancer Correlates with Recurrence Status Following Adjuvant Bolus 5-FU-Based Chemotherapy.

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Department of Surgery, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska University Hospital/Östra, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Genomics and Bioinformatics Core Facilities, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.


Colorectal cancer is commonly treated with 5-fluorouracil and 5-formyltetrahydrofolate (leucovorin). Metabolic action of leucovorin requires several enzymatic steps that are dependent on expression of corresponding coding genes. To identify folate pathway genes with possible impact on leucovorin metabolism, a retrospective study was performed on 193 patients with stage III colorectal cancer. Relative expression of 22 genes putatively involved in leucovorin transport, polyglutamation and metabolism was determined in tumor and mucosa samples using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. After surgery, patients received adjuvant 5-fluorouracil-based bolus chemotherapy with leucovorin during six months, and were followed for 3 to 5 years. Cox regression analysis showed that high tumoral expression of the genes SLC46A1/PCFT (proton-coupled folate transporter) and SLC19A1/RFC-1 (reduced folate carrier 1) correlated significantly (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01, respectively) with a decreased risk of recurrent disease, measured as disease-free survival (DFS). These two genes are involved in the transport of folates into the cells and each functions optimally at a different pH. We conclude that SLC46A1/PCFT and SLC19A1/RFC-1 are associated with DFS of patients with colorectal cancer and hypothesize that poor response to 5-fluorouracil plus leucovorin therapy in some patients may be linked to low expression of these genes. Such patients might need a more intensified therapeutic approach than those with high gene expression. Future prospective studies will determine if the expression of any of these genes can be used to predict response to leucovorin.

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