Neoadjuvant chemotherapy affects molecular classification of colorectal tumors

K. Trumpi, I. Ubink, A. Trinh, M. Djafarihamedani, J. M. Jongen, K. M. Govaert, S. G. Elias, S. R. van Hooff, J. P. Medema, M. M. Lacle, L. Vermeulen, I. H.M.Borel Rinkes, O. Kranenburg

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The recent discovery of ‘molecular subtypes’ in human primary colorectal cancer has revealed correlations between subtype, propensity to metastasize and response to therapy. It is currently not known whether the molecular tumor subtype is maintained after distant spread. If this is the case, molecular subtyping of the primary tumor could guide subtype-targeted therapy of metastatic disease. In this study, we classified paired samples of primary colorectal carcinomas and their corresponding liver metastases (n = 129) as epithelial-like or mesenchymal-like, using a recently developed immunohistochemistry-based classification tool. We observed considerable discordance (45%) in the classification of primary tumors and their liver metastases. Discordant classification was significantly associated with the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Furthermore, gene expression analysis of chemotherapy-exposed versus chemotherapy naive liver metastases revealed expression of a mesenchymal program in pre-treated tumors. To explore whether chemotherapy could cause gene expression changes influencing molecular subtyping, we exposed patient-derived colonospheres to six short cycles of 5-fluorouracil. Gene expression profiling and signature enrichment analysis subsequently revealed that the expression of signatures identifying mesenchymal-like tumors was strongly increased in chemotherapy-exposed tumor cultures. Unsupervised clustering of large cohorts of human colon tumors with the chemotherapy-induced gene expression program identified a poor prognosis mesenchymal-like subgroup. We conclude that neoadjuvant chemotherapy induces a mesenchymal phenotype in residual tumor cells and that this may influence the molecular classification of colorectal tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere357
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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