Metastasis is the major cause of cancer mortality. We aimed to find a metastasis-prone signature for early stage mismatch-repair proficient sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC) patients for better prognosis and informed use of adjuvant chemotherapy. The genome-wide expression profiles of 82 age-, ethnicity- and tissue-matched patients and healthy controls were analyzed using the Affymetrix U133 Plus 2 array. Metastasis-negative patients have 5 years or more of follow-up. A 10 x 10 two-level nested cross-validation design was used with several families of classification models to identify the optimal predictor for metastasis. The best classification model yielded a 54 gene-set (74 probe sets) with an estimated prediction accuracy of 71%. The specificity, sensitivity, negative and positive predictive values of the signature are 0.88, 0.58, 0.84 and 0.65, respectively, indicating that the gene-set can improve prognosis for early stage sporadic CRC patients. These 54 genes, including node molecules YWHAB, MAP3K5, LMNA, APP, GNAQ, F3, NFATC2, and TGM2, integrate multiple bio-functions in various compartments into an intricate molecular network, suggesting that cell-wide perturbations are involved in metastasis transformation. Further, querying the ;Connectivity Map' with a subset (70%) of these genes shows that Gly-His-Lys and securinine could reverse the differential expressions of these genes significantly, suggesting that they have combinatorial therapeutic effect on the metastasis-prone patients. These two perturbagens promote wound-healing, extracellular matrix remodeling and macrophage activation thus highlighting the importance of these pathways in metastasis suppression for early-stage CRC.
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