Thrombosis in Colorectal Cancer

  • Hamish Clouston

Student thesis: Doctor of Medicine


Thrombosis and colorectal cancer have a bi-directional relationship. The presence of a colorectal malignancy results in an increased risk of developing a thrombosis and the presence of a thrombosis results in a worse cancer prognosis. The physiology causing this is at present unclear but it is proposed that proteins from the tissue factor (TF) pathway may be the instigator of this bi-directional relationship.The in-vitro studies have shown that in colorectal cancer TF impairs that action of colorectal cancer stem cells as demonstrated by reduced cancer sphere formation and also lower expression of the stem cell marker ALDH. The ability for a colorectal cell to avoid anoikis is impaired by a reduced TF level. Proliferation is affected by the level of expression of TF with a significant increase in proliferation with additional expression of TF. The increase in proliferation is further increased by the presence of TF's ligand factor VIIa. Paradoxically reduced expression of TF also increases colorectal cancer expression. The ERK1/2 pathway offers a possible method by which TF and factor VIIa may exert their proliferative effects.In the prospective clinical cohort study (CHAMPion) abnormal expression of TF pathway proteins (TF, PAR1, PAR2 and thrombin) by both malignant epithelial and cancer associated stromal cells has been demonstrated. The stromal expression was independent of the epithelial expression and was only in stroma in close contact (0.1mm) with epithelial cells suggesting that the TF pathway proteins may have a role in stromal/epithelial communication. There was no link between the expression of TF pathway proteins and clinicopathological markers of a poor prognosis. The plasma expression of markers of TF pathway activation did not demonstrate any role as a biomarker for colorectal cancer or prognosis.The CHAMPion study has demonstrated that 7% of patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer have asymptomatic pre-operative DVTs present. A further 6% who were DVT free pre-operatively developed a DVT in the peri-operative period despite receiving venous thromboprophylaxis in line with current national guidelines. Pre-operative d-dimer may have the potential to identify those patients at risk of a post-operative VTE.This thesis establishes the role that TF has in promoting proliferation and anoikis resistance. It also confirms the abnormal expression of TF pathway proteins by colorectal cancer epithelial cells and for the first time demonstrates abnormal expression by the cancer associated stroma. The interaction between the stroma and epithelial cells, combined with the cellular effects of TF suggests that targeting this interaction may have a therapeutic role. The incidence of DVTs pre-operatively suggests that screening patients for the asymptomatic presence of a DVT may have an impact on their clinical outcome. The development of DVTs despite prophylaxis suggests that the level of anticoagulation is insufficient and current guidelines need to be revisited.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCliona Kirwan (Supervisor), Rebecca Lamb (Supervisor) & Sarah Duff (Supervisor)


  • D-dimer
  • Tissue Factor
  • Proliferation
  • Anticoagulation
  • Thrombosis
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Cancer Stem Cell

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