Genetic Fingerprint May Lead To Blood Test For Colon Cancer Interview with:
Professor Massimiliano Mazzone and Professor Hans Prenen
Lab of Molecular Oncology and Angiogenesis
VIB Vesalius Research Center
University of Leuven Leuven Belgium

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Monocytes are circulating cells with patrolling behaviour. In case of harmful situations, they go to the site of injury rapidly to ensure immune and wound-healing functions. Once in the inflammation site, they differentiate into macrophages which are versatile cells adopting different phenotypes according to the stimuli they are subjected to. We hypothesized that cancer cells might release signals and soluble factors that educate and change monocytes already when in circulation. In this work, we proved our hypothesis and found that soluble molecules released by colorectal cancer cells imprint a specific signature in the circulating monocytes. Now, by collecting these monocytic cells from the blood, we are able to determine if colorectal cancer cells are present in the body, either at the primary site (in the colon) or in distant organs (where cancer cells give rise to metastases). (M. Mazzone).

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Since most patients can be cured from colorectal cancer when the disease is detected early, there is an urgent need for a specific and sensitive screenings tool. Moreover even in relapsing disease, the outcome depends on early detection of metastases. This is the first study that defined a genetic fingerprint, called the monomark, which is induced specifically in circulating monocytes of colorectal patients at early disease onset. We also showed that the genetic fingerprint found during disease rapidly reverted to normal (as found in healthy people) after resection of the primary tumor. This feature makes our signature also a potential good tool to study disease relapse. These findings will hopefully lead to an easy to use blood test that uses monocytes for early detection of colon cancer. Obviously, this test has the potential to reach a better compliance (since based on few millilitres of peripheral blood) thus allowing to screen more people at reasonable costs (the method is relatively cheap) and to select a more narrow population of at-risk population that will receive confirmation of the diagnosis by colonoscopy (thus reducing the needs for this costly and invasive, yet precise, detection method). (M. Mazzone, H. Prenen).

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: A first research goal would be  to use the monocyte profile to follow-up disease recurrence. Given the strong plasticity of these cells and their ability to promptly revert this signature, we hypothesize that the genetic profile will be reactivated upon disease relapse, meaning that the relapsing patients will be positive at the Monomark test, thus allowing an easier followup than routine CT scans.

Secondly, the monomark test should be compared with the available stool and blood based screening tools to compare sensitivity and specificity. Finally, the monomark should be evaluated in metastatic colorectal cancer patients, responding to a chemotherapeutic therapy. We hypothesize that tumor cells responding to chemotherapy, will not produce the factors that change the circulating monocytes, and therefore the Monomark (as we called this colorectal cancer specific monocyte-signature) could be used  for response prediction. (M. Mazzone, H. Prenen)


Tumour-Educated Circulating Monocytes are Powerfule Candidate Biomarkers for Diagnosis and Disease Follow-up of Colorectal Cancer

Alexander Hamm, Hans Prenen, Wouter Van Delm, Mario Di Matteo, Mathias Wenes, Estelle Delamarre, Thomas Schmidt, Jürgen Weitz, Roberta Sarmiento, Angelo Dezi, Giampietro Gasparini, Françoise Rothé, Robin Schmitz, André D’Hoore, Hannes Iserentant, Alain Hendlisz, Massimiliano Mazzone

Gut gutjnl-2014-308988Published Online First: 26 March 2015 doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-308988

[wysija_form id=”2″] Interview with:Professor Massimiliano Mazzone and Professor Hans Prenen (2015). Genetic Fingerprint May Lead To Blood Test For Colon Cancer 

Last Updated on March 28, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD