UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center
Ralph Weiselbaum, MD, and Geoffrey Greene, PhD, in lab
Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, left, and Geoffrey Greene, PhD, are co-directors of the Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research.

The deadliest aspect of cancer is metastasis — a process by which tumor cells break away from their neighbors and travel to distant organs. Metastatic cancer remains a major clinical challenge due to lack of accurate predictive tests and limited effective therapeutic options. This translates into lower survival rates at later stages of the disease. Our researchers are invested in unraveling the molecular and genetic basis of this process, a key to developing successful treatments tailored to individual patients that will prevent cancer from spreading.

Back in 1995, Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, and Samuel Hellman, MD, coined the phrase “oligometastasis” to describe a state in which patients have a few metastases, or sites of cancer that has spread, in contrast to those with widespread metastases throughout the body. Since then, Weichselbaum and his colleagues have not only learned how to treat these patients with oligometastases effectively, but have also led efforts to understand the differences between these metastatic states and the molecular mechanisms that are involved.

Work from Weichselbaum and other Comprehensive Cancer Center members Sean Pitroda, MD; Mitchell Posner, MD; Kevin White, PhD; and Jeremy Segal, MD, PhD, identified three distinct subtypes of de novo colorectal liver metastasis through integrative molecular analysis (Pitroda et al., Nat Comm 9:1793-1801, 2018). These molecular subtypes complement clinical information to distinguish low-, moderate-, and high-risk patients with very different survival rates, and have the potential to change how we evaluate metastasis clinically.