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Clin Colorectal Cancer. 2019 Jun;18(2):e210-e222. doi: 10.1016/j.clcc.2019.01.004. Epub 2019 Feb 10.

Network Mapping of Molecular Biomarkers Influencing Radiation Response in Rectal Cancer.

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Department of Surgery & Cancer, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Computational & Systems Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Department of Surgical Oncology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.
Department of Surgery & Cancer, Imperial College London, London, UK; St Mark's Hospital and Academic Institute, Harrow, London, UK. Electronic address:


Preoperative radiotherapy (RT) plays an important role in the management of locally advanced rectal cancer (RC). Tumor regression after RT shows marked variability, and robust molecular methods are needed to help predict likely response. The aim of this study was to review the current published literature and use Gene Ontology (GO) analysis to define key molecular biomarkers governing radiation response in RC. A systematic review of electronic bibliographic databases (Medline, Embase) was performed for original articles published between 2000 and 2015. Biomarkers were then classified according to biological function and incorporated into a hierarchical GO tree. Both significant and nonsignificant results were included in the analysis. Significance was binarized on the basis of univariate and multivariate statistics. Significance scores were calculated for each biological domain (or node), and a direct acyclic graph was generated for intuitive mapping of biological pathways and markers involved in RC radiation response. Seventy-two individual biomarkers across 74 studies were identified. On highest-order classification, molecular biomarkers falling within the domains of response to stress, cellular metabolism, and pathways inhibiting apoptosis were found to be the most influential in predicting radiosensitivity. Homogenizing biomarker data from original articles using controlled GO terminology demonstrated that cellular mechanisms of response to RT in RC-in particular the metabolic response to RT-may hold promise in developing radiotherapeutic biomarkers to help predict, and in the future modulate, radiation response.


Neoadjuvant therapy; Radiation tolerance; Radiotherapy; Rectal neoplasms

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