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15-01-2018 | Colorectal cancer | Article

Surgical stress response and promotion of metastasis in colorectal cancer: a complex and heterogeneous process

Clinical & Experimental Metastasis

Authors: Corina Behrenbruch, Carolyn Shembrey, Sophie Paquet-Fifield, Christina Mølck, Hyun-Jung Cho, Michael Michael, Benjamin N. J. Thomson, Alexander G. Heriot, Frédéric Hollande

Publisher: Springer Netherlands


Surgery remains the curative treatment modality for colorectal cancer in all stages, including stage IV with resectable liver metastasis. There is emerging evidence that the stress response caused by surgery as well as other perioperative therapies such as anesthesia and analgesia may promote growth of pre-existing micro-metastasis or potentially initiate tumor dissemination. Therapeutically targeting the perioperative period may therefore reduce the effect that surgical treatments have in promoting metastases, for example by combining β-adrenergic receptor antagonists and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors in the perioperative setting. In this paper, we highlight some of the mechanisms that may underlie surgery-related metastatic development in colorectal cancer. These include direct tumor spillage at the time of surgery, suppression of the anti-tumor immune response, direct stimulatory effects on tumor cells, and activation of the coagulation system. We summarize in more detail results that support a role for catecholamines as major drivers of the pro-metastatic effect induced by the surgical stress response, predominantly through activation of β-adrenergic signaling. Additionally, we argue that an improved understanding of surgical stress-induced dissemination, and more specifically whether it impacts on the level and nature of heterogeneity within residual tumor cells, would contribute to the successful clinical targeting of this process. Finally, we provide a proof-of-concept demonstration that ex-vivo analyses of colorectal cancer patient-derived samples using RGB-labeling technology can provide important insights into the heterogeneous sensitivity of tumor cells to stress signals. This suggests that intra-tumor heterogeneity is likely to influence the efficacy of perioperative β-adrenergic receptor and COX-2 inhibition, and that ex-vivo characterization of heterogeneous stress response in tumor samples can synergize with other models to optimize perioperative treatments and further improve outcome in colorectal and other solid cancers.

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