The role of extrinsic clotting pathway activation in the colorectal cancer microenvironment

  • Peter Adam Rees

Student thesis: Phd


Malignancy is associated with a hypercoagulable state manifested clinically by an increased incidence of venous thromboembolism (VTE). Colorectal cancer (CRC) patients who develop VTE have reduced survival. This increased mortality extends beyond the acute VTE event, suggesting that VTE is associated with aggressive tumour biology. Tissue factor (TF) and other clotting factors have been implicated in this process. However, the significance of clotting factors in the tumour microenvironment (TME) remains unknown. The aim of this thesis is to i) determine if a procoagulant TME is a biomarker for poor prognosis and VTE in patients undergoing resectional surgery for CRC and ii) determine the effect of TF, thrombin and FXa on proliferation and migration in vitro in CRC and if their inhibitors have potential as anticancer therapies. In the in vitro studies, epithelial expression of TF had a modest effect on proliferation and migration when quantified using the PrestoBlue proliferation and transwell migration assays. Exogenous TF, FXa and thrombin all increased migration in DLD-1 wild type cells. In addition, exogenous thrombin increased proliferation amongst SW620 wild type cells. This suggests that coagulation factors from the TME, rather than epithelial expression, may influence tumour biology. Moreover, dabigatran, a direct thrombin inhibitor, abrogated the pro-proliferative effects of thrombin, which highlights its potential role as an anticancer therapy. In a multicentre, prospective cohort study of 159 CRC patients undergoing resectional surgery, rates of duplex screen detected deep vein thrombosis (DVT) were correlated to plasma and tumour markers of hypercoagulability. TF is upregulated in the stroma of cancer compared to normal tissue. However, stromal TF expression decreased in more advanced (T4) tumours. This suggests that a procoagulant TME has a role in early tumourigenesis. In total, 5.4%, 7.0% and 9.1% of patients had an asymptomatic DVT pre- operatively, at six weeks post-surgery and after the commencement of adjuvant chemotherapy respectively. The development of a post-operative complication was a risk factor for DVT, whilst locally advanced tumours resulted in a prolonged hypercoagulable state i.e. raised D-dimer at six weeks. This highlights a possible role for pre- and post- operative screening duplex ultrasonography and super-extended VTE prophylaxis in selected patients. In conclusion, this thesis establishes a role for exogenous coagulation factors in promoting tumour biology in CRC. VTE is more common amongst patients undergoing resectional surgery for CRC than previously estimated. The utility of tumour and plasma hypercoagulabilty as biomarkers for survival in CRC will be further analysed when long term follow-up data is available.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCliona Kirwan (Supervisor), Rebecca Lamb (Supervisor) & Sarah Duff (Supervisor)


  • colorectal cancer
  • venous thromboembolism
  • tumour microenvironment
  • tissue factor

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