Amplification of thymidylate synthetase in metastatic colorectal cancer patients pretreated with 5-fluorouracil-based chemotherapy

Roshawn G. Watson, Filipe Muhale, Leigh B. Thorne, Jinsheng Yu, Bert H. O'Neil, Janelle M. Hoskins, Michael O. Meyers, Allison M. Deal, Joseph G. Ibrahim, Michael L. Hudson, Christine M. Walko, Howard L. McLeod, James T. Auman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Resistance to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) represents a major contributor to cancer-related mortality in advanced colorectal cancer patients. Genetic variations and expression alterations in genes involved in 5-FU metabolism and effect have been shown to modulate 5-FU sensitivity in vitro, however these alterations do not fully explain clinical resistance to 5-FU-based chemotherapy. To determine if alterations of DNA copy number in genes involved in 5-FU metabolism-impacted clinical resistance to 5-FU-based chemotherapy, we assessed thymidylate synthetase (TYMS) and thymidine phosphorylase (TYMP) copy number in colorectal liver metastases. DNA copy number of TYMS and TYMP was evaluated using real time quantitative PCR in frozen colorectal liver metastases procured from 62 patients who were pretreated with 5-FU-based chemotherapy prior to surgical resection (5-FU exposed) and from 51 patients who received no pretreatment (unexposed). Gain of TYMS DNA copy number was observed in 18% of the 5-FU exposed metastases, while only 4% of the unexposed metastases exhibited TYMS copy gain (p = 0.036). No significant differences were noted in TYMP copy number alterations between 5-FU-exposed and -unexposed metastases. Median survival time was similar in 5-FU-exposed patients with metastases containing TYMS amplification and those with no amplification. However, TYMS amplification was associated with shorter median survival in patients receiving post-resection chemotherapy (hazard ratio = 2.7, 95% confidence interval = 1.1-6.6; p = 0.027). These results suggest amplification of TYMS amplification as a putative mechanism for clinical resistance to 5-FU-based chemotherapy and may have important ramifications for the post-resection chemotherapy choices for metastatic colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3358-3364
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number18
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Colorectal neoplasms
  • DNA copy number variation
  • Fluorouracil
  • Neoplasm metastasis
  • Thymidine phosphorylase
  • Thymidylate synthase


Dive into the research topics of 'Amplification of thymidylate synthetase in metastatic colorectal cancer patients pretreated with 5-fluorouracil-based chemotherapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this