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J Mol Diagn. 2007 Sep;9(4):472-8. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

Heterogeneous staining for mismatch repair proteins during population-based prescreening for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.

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  • 1School of Surgery and Pathology M507, University of Western Australia, Nedlands 6009, Australia.


The aim of this study was to determine the frequency of microsatellite instability (MSI(+)) in tumors from a population-based series of young colorectal cancer patients and its correlation with the loss of expression of mismatch repair (MMR) proteins. The BAT-26 mononucleotide repeat was used to screen for MSI(+) in all colorectal cancers diagnosed in Western Australia throughout a 5-year period in patients <60 years of age. MSI(+) was found in 75 of 1003 (7.5%) cases, of which six contained a concomitant mutation in BRAF and were therefore excluded from further investigations as possible hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer. Immunohistochemistry was used to evaluate expression of the four major MMR proteins (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2) in the remaining 69 MSI(+) tumors. Complete loss of MLH1 and PMS2 expression or of MSH2 and MSH6 expression was found in 35 (51%) and 17 (25%) cases, respectively, whereas other patterns of complete loss were observed in eight cases (12%). Eight tumors (12%) were initially recorded as showing normal expression, but on review seven were reclassified as having abnormal staining because of heterogeneous patterns of MMR loss. Three of these seven cases had previously been found to have germline mutations. Because of possible misinterpretation of heterogeneous immunohistochemistry staining for MMR protein loss, MSI testing is recommended as the initial screen for population-based detection of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.

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