Identification of unique rectal cancer-specific subtypes

Batuhan Kisakol, Anna Matveeva, Manuela Salvucci, Alexander Kel, Elizabeth McDonough, Fiona Ginty, Daniel B. Longley, Jochen H.M. Prehn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Existing colorectal cancer subtyping methods were generated without much consideration of potential differences in expression profiles between colon and rectal tissues. Moreover, locally advanced rectal cancers at resection often have received neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy which likely has a significant impact on gene expression. 

Methods: We collected mRNA expression profiles for rectal and colon cancer samples (n = 2121). We observed that (i) Consensus Molecular Subtyping (CMS) had a different prognosis in treatment-naïve rectal vs. colon cancers, and (ii) that neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy exposure produced a strong shift in CMS subtypes in rectal cancers. We therefore clustered 182 untreated rectal cancers to find rectal cancer-specific subtypes (RSSs). 

Results: We identified three robust subtypes. We observed that RSS1 had better, and RSS2 had worse disease-free survival. RSS1 showed high expression of MYC target genes and low activity of angiogenesis genes. RSS2 exhibited low regulatory T cell abundance, strong EMT and angiogenesis signalling, and high activation of TGF-β, NF-κB, and TNF-α signalling. RSS3 was characterised by the deactivation of EGFR, MAPK and WNT pathways.

Conclusions: We conclude that RSS subtyping allows for more accurate prognosis predictions in rectal cancers than CMS subtyping and provides new insight into targetable disease pathways within these subtypes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Early online date26 Mar 2024
Publication statusEarly online date - 26 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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