A study to find out if tests on cells can help predict if rectal cancer will come back after treatment (Ploidy and stroma study)

Cancer type:

Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Rectal cancer





This study was done to find out if tests on tissue samples can help predict whether early stage rectal cancer will come back after surgery. Rectal cancer is also known as cancer of the rectum (back passage).

The study was open for people to join between 2017 and 2018. The team published the results in 2021.

More about this trial

Doctors asses the stage of a cancer to help decide which treatment is best. They look at how big it is, and whether it has spread. They also use results from scans, blood tests and tissue biopsies.
In this study, they wanted to find out about other tests. The tests looked at different features of cancer cells, called ploidy and stroma. 

The genes inside our cells are organised into chromosomes. The term ploidy refers to the number of sets of chromosomes in the cell. Most cells in our bodies have 2 sets of chromosomes. But some cancer cells don’t have 2 sets. When this happens, it can mean that treatments work less well.
Stroma is connective tissue. This means the bits that support the tissue or organ. Stroma doesn’t play a part in the function of the tissue or organ. The amount and type of stroma in cancer tissue can also affect how well treatment works.

The main aim of the study was to find out if these tests can help predict whether rectal cancer will come back after surgery.

Summary of results

Study design
This study was for people who’d had, or were due to have, surgery for early stage rectal cancer. The research team looked at the ploidy and stroma of the cancer.

A total of 143 people joined this trial. The study team were able to analyse the results for 139 of them.

They looked at:

  • the amount and type of stromal (connective) tissue in the cancer tissue
  • how many sets of chromosomes the cells had (ploidy)

The results showed that the ratio of different types of stromal tissue can affect the risk of the cancer coming back. It is also useful to look at the amount of stromal tissue and the number of sets of chromosomes.

The research team suggest that doctors could use these tests to help decide how best to treat rectal cancer.

More detailed information
There is more information about this research in the reference below. 

Please note, this article may not be in plain English. It has been written for health care professionals and researchers.

Stromal composition predicts recurrence of early rectal cancer after local excision
H Jones and others
Histopathology, 2021. Volume79, Issue 6, pages 947 – 956.

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on the information in the article above. This has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. We have not analysed the data ourselves. As far as we are aware, the link we list above is active and the article is free and available to view.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Chris Cunningham

Supported by

Bowel Research UK (formerly Bowel Disease Research Foundation)
Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences
OCCTOPUS – Oxford Colon Cancer Trust 
Oslo University Hospital 
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Last reviewed:

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