The landscape of metastatic progression patterns across major human cancers

Jan Budczies, Moritz von Winterfeld, Frederick Klauschen, Michael Bockmayr, Jochen K. Lennerz, Carsten Denkert, Thomas Wolf, Arne Warth, Manfred Dietel, Ioannis Anagnostopoulos, Wilko Weichert, Daniel Wittschieber, Albrecht Stenzinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


The majority of patients with solid malignancies die from metastatic burden. However, our current understanding of the mechanisms and resulting patterns of dissemination is limited. Here, we analyzed patterns of metastatic progression across 16 major cancer types in a cohort of 1008 patients with metastatic cancer autopsied between 2000 and 2013 to assess cancer specific progression patterns of disease and related risk predictions. The frequency and location of metastases were evaluated in and across 1) 16 major cancers, 2) smoking- and non-smoking-related cancers and 3) adeno- and squamous cell carcinoma. Associations between primary and secondary sites were analyzed by the fractional and the relative risk methods. We detected significantly different cancer specific patterns of metastatic progression with specific relative risk profiles for secondary site involvement. Histology and smoking etiology influenced these patterns. Backward analysis showed that metastatic patterns help to predict unknown primary sites. Solid malignancies maintain a unique and recurrent organ tropism to specific secondary sites which does not appear to be strongly influenced by advances in cancer medicine as shown by comparison with previous data sets. The delineated landscape of metastatic progression patterns is a comprehensive data resource to both clinical and basic scientists which aids fostering new hypotheses for cancer research and cancer therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-583
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Autopsy
  • Cancer
  • Carcinoma
  • Metastasis
  • Solid Tumor
  • Survival
  • Systemic Disease


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