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05 July 2023: Articles  USA

Successful Treatment of Recurrent Colonic Adenocarcinoma with Metastatic Tumor Thrombus in the Superior Mesenteric Vein with Surgical Excision and Venous Reconstruction

Unusual clinical course, Challenging differential diagnosis

Zain El-amir1ABCDEF, Eun-Young Karen Choi2ABDE, John C. Krauss3ABCDEFG*

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.939156

Am J Case Rep 2023; 24:e939156




BACKGROUND: Patients cured of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) are at increased risk of second malignancies, such as lung, breast, and colon cancer. Isolated metastasis of these malignancies to the vasculature is rare. We present a unique case of a patient cured of HL who developed colon cancer and later presented with an isolated metastases of colon cancer to the superior mesenteric vein. The patient is now in complete remission 5 years after surgical excision of the superior mesenteric vein metastases followed by chemotherapy.

CASE REPORT: A 56-year-old woman presented with a past medical history notable for stage III HL diagnosed at age 13 years that was treated by splenectomy, chemotherapy, and mantle with inverted Y radiation. She underwent a right nephrectomy at age 51 years for renal cell carcinoma. At age 56, an 8-cm mass in the transverse colon was found during surveillance imaging. She underwent right hemicolectomy for pathological stage IIA (T3N0M0) adenocarcinoma. A liver adenoma was identified a year later. Two years after hemicolectomy, an abdominal recurrence was identified, and she underwent a resection of a superior mesenteric vein mass with porto-mesenteric reconstruction. Pathology revealed metastatic colonic adenocarcinoma, 1 of 7 lymph nodes positive for cancer, and clear margins. She received 6 months of fluorouracil chemotherapy and remained free of recurrences for 5 years.

CONCLUSIONS: Isolated vascular recurrences of colon cancer can be cured with resection and systemic chemotherapy. Diagnosis and treatment of venous recurrences remains challenging owing to the lack or percutaneous access for biopsy and the difficulty of venous reconstruction.

Keywords: Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Colonic Neoplasms, Colorectal Surgery, Hodgkin Disease, Radiotherapy


Patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) are known to be at increased risk of second malignancies. The risk of solid malignancies after treatment of HL, such as lung, colon, and breast cancer, has been studied extensively [1]. Colorectal cancer is reported to be the third most common solid malignancy in survivors of HL, and survivors are reported to have a 2.4-fold increased risk of developing colorectal cancer when compared with the general population [1].

Radiation-induced secondary malignancies are a known late adverse effect of radiation therapy [2]. Inverted Y-field radiation for patients with HL has been shown to have a 15.9-fold increased risk of transverse colon cancer [1]. Radiation therapy can cause significant injury of normal tissues in the radiation field, and the gastrointestinal tract is a particularly radiosensitive tissue, which can be a limiting factor in determining a patient’s potential tolerance of radiotherapy [3]. Despite the known increased risk of colon cancer in HL patients after radiation, radiation-associated colon cancer is reported to be a rare clinical entity [3].

Given the increased number of cancer survivors, post-radiation malignancies are of growing concern in the field of oncology [2]. We present a case of a patient with HL who, after radiation, developed colon cancer with subsequent metastasis to the superior mesenteric vein, a rare clinical entity of which similar presentation has not been known to be reported to date.

Case Report

The patient was a 56-year-old woman with a past medical history of stage III HL diagnosed at age 13, which was treated by splenectomy, 3 months of chemotherapy, and mantle and inverted Y radiation therapy. Thirty-eight years later, she developed a renal cell carcinoma, which was treated with right nephrectomy. Forty-three years after treatment for HL, she was found to have an 8-cm mass in the transverse colon. She underwent right colectomy for pathological stage IIA (T3N0M0) adenocarcinoma. No adjuvant therapy was administered, and she continued with active surveillance. A liver mass was identified about a year later, which was biopsied and found to be an adenoma. Later that year, another mass was identified, and was initially thought to represent a para-duodenal lymph node. The mass could not be biopsied safely percutaneously, and a biopsy was unable to be obtained with an endoscopic ultrasound. The mass was observed on short-term imaging, and was fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) avid on positron emission tomography (PET) and showed restricted diffusion on magnetic resonance imaging (Figure 1). Contrast-enhanced computed tomography demonstrated a tumor in the superior mesenteric vein on the sagittal and the coronal planes (Figure 2). The mass slowly enlarged on 3 serial PET scans over a 6-month interval, no other metastases developed, and the patient was referred for consideration of resection. She underwent radical resection of the 3-cm tumor with porto-mesenteric reconstruction using an inter-positioned saphenous vein graft (Figure 3). The final pathology results revealed the mass was metastatic colonic adenocarcinoma with involvement of the superior mesenteric vein, with 1 of 7 lymph nodes positive for adenocarcinoma, and negative margins (Figure 4). The patient completed 12 cycles of adjuvant treatment with fluorouracil (5-FU), and no further metastases had been identified 5 years after her surgical excision of the metastatic tumor.



Colon cancer metastasis to a superior mesenteric vein is extremely rare, and we have not been able to find a similar case reported in the literature. In patients with HL, the reported relative risks range from 2 to 7, compared with that in the general population [4]. This increased risk can continue for up to 40 years after treatment of HL [4]. HL survivors who have been treated with either procarbazine and/or abdominal radiation have been noted to have a high prevalence of premalignant polyps [4]. The screening guidelines of the Children’s Oncology Group now recommend screening for colorectal cancer 5 years after radiation or at age 30 years (whichever occurs last) with a colonoscopy every 5 years or multitarget stool DNA test every 3 years [5]. In patients with HL, radiotherapy exposes healthy tissues to radiation [6]. More specifically, in patients who receive infra-diaphragmatic radiation, colon, rectal, and bladder cancer are reported to result as post-radiation secondary malignancies in patients with HL [6]. In the present case, the patient was treated with radiation as part of her HL therapy, which may have contributed to the development of her transverse colon cancer. The occurrence of the primary transverse colon cancer and the metastases in the inverted Y-field radiation implicates the late effects of radiation in her cancer.


Colorectal cancer metastases most commonly occur in the regional lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and peritoneal cavity, and less commonly in other sites [7]. In rectal cancer, large vessel venous invasion can be seen and is an adverse prognostic factor [8]. Proposed models of metastatic spread of malignancies includes the “seed-and-soil” hypothesis. This hypothesis originally proposed that metastasis occurs when there is the presence of a favorable environment for the growth of tumor cells with metastatic potential. Studies done during the last several decades have provided a better understanding of the mechanisms of metastatic spread of malignancies [9].

For example, the transforming growth factor a/epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway also plays a role in colon cancer metastasis [10]. Activation of the receptor and subsequent signaling pathway helps promote cell proliferation, migration, survival, and adhesion, ultimately promoting metastasis [10].

Radiotherapy cures the majority of early-stage HL but can cause long-term toxicity to the adjacent organs [11]. The cumulative 30-year risk of second malignancies after treatment for HL is 30% for men and 20% for women [12]. The risk of serious cardiovascular events is 30% for both men and women [12]. While metastasis to irradiated tissues is a relatively rare clinical event, radiation can directly and indirectly impact the microenvironment in a way that enhances invasion, migration, and metastasis [13]. In animal models, radiation of the lung or liver prior to primary tumor inoculation in a distant site led to and increased metastatic burden in the irradiated organ [13]. In general, in humans there is no propensity toward metastasis to irradiated tissues [13]. Radiation has rarely been reported to induce local pro-invasive effects in breast cancer, and in prostate and rectal cancer, radiotherapy can increase the activity of matrix metalloproteinases in the local microenvironment and tumor, which is thought to promote invasion [13].


Patients with HL who receive infra-diaphragmatic radiotherapy have a 5-fold higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, and these cancers are demonstrated to have a higher frequency of microsatellite instability due to somatic mutations in mismatch repair genes [14]. HL patients with gastrointestinal malignancies have long been reported to have worse overall and disease-specific survival than other patients with gastrointestinal malignancies, which has been postulated to be due at least in part to differences in carcinogenesis, such as being treatment-induced in HL patients [15]. However, recent advancements in treatment and the increase in the proportion of stage IV colorectal cancer in the last 25 years has created the space for improved survival [16]. This has been attributed in part to the improvement in detection of metastasis as well as to advancements in systemic therapy and surgical options for patients with metastatic disease [16]. Despite the advancements in treatment, though, HL survivors who develop a second malignancy are still reported to have a substantially lower life expectancy [17].


Surgical resection of metastases from colorectal cancer is the curative option in oligometastatic cancer. Colorectal cancer with metastasis to the liver and lung can be cured with resection [18,19]. Little information is available about surgical options for malignancies in the venous structures. Surgical options following portal trauma include selective portal ligation [20]. Patients with portal vein injury can also be treated with portal injury repair, which requires isolation, exposure, and repair of the vein in cases of trauma [21]. Surgical repair can include lateral venorrhaphy, interposition graft, end-to-end anastomosis, or portal-systemic shunting [21].

There are reported cases of tumor thrombosis in the superior mesenteric vein in patients with colorectal cancer that have been treated surgically [22–24]. The presence of superior mesenteric vein thrombosis is also a rare sequela of colorectal cancer, with reports suggesting an incidence of venous tumor thrombosis of 1.7% [22]. Surgical options for thrombosis to the superior mesenteric vein include hemicolectomy with thrombectomy and subsequent vein grafting, as well as laparoscopy-assisted colectomy for complete tumor resection followed by adjunctive chemotherapy, as tumor and thrombus removal is suggested to improve prognosis in these cases [22,23]. There is 1 case report of combined right hemicolectomy with resection of tumor thrombosis in the superior mesenteric vein and saphenous vein grafting. In the case of that patient, surgical excision of the primary tumor and the tumor thrombus in the superior mesenteric vein, with negative margins, followed by systemic chemotherapy with oxaliplatin and capecitabine resulted in a long-term remission [22].


Patients with a history of HL with radiation treatment may be at increased risk of not only solid malignancies but also solid organ malignancy metastasis to previously irradiated sites, including venous structures.


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11.. Strauss DJ, Long-term survivorship at a price: Late-term, therapy-associated toxicities in the adult Hodgkin Lymphoma patient: Ther Adv Hematol, 2011; 2; 11-119

12.. Holtzman AL, Stahl JM, Zhu S, Does the incidence of treatment-related toxicity plateau after radiation therapy: The long-term impact of integral dose in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivors: Adv Radiat Oncol, 2019; 4; 699-705

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14.. Rigter LS, Snaebjornsson P, Rosenberg EH, Double somatic mutations in mismatch repair genes are frequent in colorectal cancer after Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment: Gut, 2018; 67; 447-55

15.. Rigter LS, Schaapveld M, Janus CPM, Overall and disease-specific survival of Hodgkin lymphoma survivors who subsequently developed gastrointestinal cancer: Cancer Med, 2019; 8; 190-99

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17.. de Vries S, Schaapveld M, Janus CPM, Long-term cause-specific mortality in Hodgkin Lymphoma patients: J Natl Cancer Inst, 2021; 113; 760-69

18.. Engstrand J, Nilsson H, Stromberg C, Colorectal cancer liver metastases – a population-based study on incidence, management, and survival: BMC Cancer, 2018; 18; 78

19.. Pfannschmidt J, Dienemann H, Hoffmann H, Surgical resection of pulmonary metastases from colorectal cancer: A systematic review of published series: Ann Thor Surg, 2007; 84; 324-28

20.. Rocca A, Andolfi E, Zamboli AGI, Management of complications of first instance of hepatic trauma in a liver surgery unit: Portal vein ligation as a conservative therapeutic strategy: Open Med, 2019; 14; 376-83

21.. Sabat J, Hsu CH, Chu Q, Tan TW, The mortality for surgical repair is similar to ligation in patients with traumatic portal vein injury: J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord, 2019; 7(3); 399-404

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23.. Otani K, Ishihara S, Hata K, Colorectal cancer with venous tumor thrombosis: Asian J Surg, 2018; 41; 197-202

24.. Fujii Y, Kobayashi K, Kimura S, Ascending colon cancer accompanied by tumor thrombosis in the superior mesenteric vein: A case report: Int J Surg Case Rep, 2020; 73; 239-43

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American Journal of Case Reports eISSN: 1941-5923
American Journal of Case Reports eISSN: 1941-5923