GUCY2C reverse transcriptase PCR to stage pN0 colorectal cancer patients

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2009 Nov;9(8):777-85. doi: 10.1586/erm.09.67.


The most important prognostic marker of survival and predictive marker of response to adjuvant chemotherapy in colon cancer patients is tumor cells in regional lymph nodes. Despite their importance, standard techniques to assess nodal metastases remain imperfect, as approximately 30% of patients with histology-negative lymph nodes (pN0) die of recurrent disease, reflecting occult metastases that escape detection. These observations highlight the clinical need for novel, accurate approaches to detect occult lymph node metastases in patients with colon cancer. GUCY2C is a biomarker whose expression normally is restricted to intestinal cells, but is near universally overexpressed by colorectal cancer cells. Recently, a prospective, multicenter, blinded clinical trial demonstrated for the first time that the prognostic utility of GUCY2C quantitative reverse transcriptase (qRT)-PCR to detect occult lymph node metastases in pN0 colorectal cancer patients. Molecular staging revealed that approximately 13% of pN0 patients were free of tumor cells, while approximately 87% had GUCY2C results that suggested occult metastases. The presence of occult lymph node metastases was the strongest independent predictor of time to recurrence and disease-free survival. These observations establish the utility of molecular detection of occult lymph node metastases for estimating prognostic risk in pN0 colorectal cancer patients. Advancing this molecular diagnostic into staging paradigms in clinical laboratories will require validation in independent patient populations, definition of the relationship between the quantity of occult tumor metastases and risk, and determination of the utility of GUCY2C qRT-PCR to identify pN0 patients who might benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Guanylate Cyclase / genetics*
  • Guanylate Cyclase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pathology, Molecular
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Enterotoxin
  • Receptors, Guanylate Cyclase-Coupled
  • Receptors, Peptide / genetics*
  • Receptors, Peptide / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • GUCY2C protein, human
  • Guanylate Cyclase
  • Receptors, Enterotoxin
  • Receptors, Guanylate Cyclase-Coupled