K-ras mutational analysis of polyclonal colorectal cancers identifies uniclonal circulating tumor cells

Jennifer S. Thebo, Anthony J. Senagore, Susan Krygier, Martin A. Luchtefeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The clonal development of colorectal carcinoma resulting from specific mutations in certain oncogenes and/or tumor suppressor genes is a well-accepted model. It is increasingly recognized that a majority of colorectal cancers are polyclonal on the basis of molecular analysis that demonstrates cells with different mutations within a given oncogene or tumor suppressor gene in the same tumor. This polyclonal pattern may occur as a result of either clonal convergence or divergence during the many steps of oncogenesis. Further complicating this picture is the fact that metastatic lesions may arise from only one of the clonal populations within a tumor and thereby present only a partial molecular make-up of the whole tumor. There are few data available that define clonal selection or specificity of circulating tumor cells in patients undergoing curative resection of colorectal carcinoma. The purpose of this paper is to describe the clonal distribution of circulating tumor cells in four patients with multiple K-ras mutations present in the primary lesion. Patients were selected who were known to have polyclonal primary colorectal cancers resected for cure. All patients had multiple mutations present in exon one, codon 12 and/or 13, of the K-ras gene. Blood samples were drawn immediately before surgery and at 2-week to 6-month intervals postoperatively. Epithelial cells were isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells using Dynal ImmunobeadsRT coated with antiepithelial antibodies. DNA was extracted from these cells and analyzed for all K-ras mutations present in codons 12 and 13 of the patient's primary tumor using allele-specific polymerase chain reaction followed by Microwell Array Diagonal Gel Electrophoresis. Circulating tumor cells were identified in all four patients. However, in each case of positive circulating cells the only mutation identified was an aspartic acid mutation at codon 13. Once positive the circulating tumor cells persisted in subsequent multiple blood samples. These results provide further strength for the theory of polyclonal progression in primary colorectal cancers, although there may be specific mutational patterns that confer the ability to metastasize. The significance of this persistence of the glycine-to-aspartic acid mutation at codon 13 remains to be defined given that none of these patients has clinical evidence of recurrent cancer at the time of this report.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)802-805
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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