Although survival rates of colon cancer patients diagnosed at an early stage (T1-2N0M0; Dukes A) vary considerably according to the studies cited, several studies indicate development of distant metastases already occurring in a considerable percentage of these patients leading to the death of the patients. This particular high risk group cannot be identified properly as no marker exists to identify these patients. As the Wnt/Win pathway plays a crucial role in metastasis formation in colorectal carcinoma, we analysed whether the transcription factor brachyury critically involved in this pathway may predict metastasis formation in these patients. The expression of brachyury-homologous (T) was immunohistochemically analysed in 748 patients and the data were correlated with classical and newer prognostic markers in colorectal cancer. Early stages colorectal cancer patients (T1-2N0M0, Dukes A) showed a significantly decreased survival when brachyury was expressed in the tumour tissue while no correlation was observed in later tumour stages. Hence a subset of colorectal cancers exists in which the ability to metastasise is already present at early stages of tumour growth and this high risk group can now be detected by immunohistochemistry.
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