An international team of researchers has identified a gene that may act as a strong predictor of colon cancer spread.
The research team, consisting of experts from the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charite - Universitats Medizin Berlin (Germany), claim to have identified a gene called MACC1 (Metastasis-Associated in Colon Cancer 1).
This gene not only aids in tumour growth but also in the development of metastasis, reports Nature Medicine.
The study showed that when MACC1 gene activity was low, the life expectancy of patients with colon cancer was longer as comparison to patients with high MACC1 levels.
Nearly 20 percent of the patients develop metastasis by the time their colon cancer is diagnosed.
The researchers hope that the MACC1 gene will help in early identification of people at greater risk of developing threatening metastasis in the liver and the lungs.
The MACC1 activates HGF/Met signalling pathway that plays a crucial role in tumour growth and the formation of metastasis.
Once this pathway is activated, tumour cells thrive much faster, get rid of their ties within the cellular tissue and subsequently settle down as metastasis at various sights throughout the body.
For the study, the researchers recruited 103 patients with colon cancer. between 20 to 88 years of age. Sixty cancer patients had no metastasis at the time they underwent surgery.
Of these 60 patients, 37 had no metastasis five years after surgery and treatment.
The patients had low levels of MACC1 when first diagnosed with colon cancer, while 23 patients had developed metastasis in the course of five years after surgery.
The higher the level of MACC1 gene, greater is the risk for metastasis.
Patients with high MACC1 levels have a much higher risk for developing metastasis than patients with a MACC1 gene that is not very active.
The study appears in the journal Nature Medicine.