Send to

Choose Destination
Eur J Surg Oncol. 2003 Apr;29(3):201-12.

The clinical importance and prognostic implications of microsatellite instability in sporadic cancer.

Author information

Department of Surgery, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London, London, WIW 7EJ, UK.



The genetic abnormality known as microsatellite instability (MSI), first identified in colorectal cancer in 1993, has subsequently been recognised in other malignancies. These cancers are caused by a defect in the nuclear mismatch repair system, allowing mutations to accumulate with every cellular division. Hereditary Non Polyposis Colon Cancers (HNPCC) and associated malignancies demonstrating MSI have a unique histological appearance, improved prognosis and altered response to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This review examines the incidence of MSI and its clinical significance in commonly occurring solid malignancies.


A medline based literature search was performed using the key words 'Microsatellite Instability' and the name of the specific malignancy being investigated. Additional original papers were obtained from citations in those articles identified in the original medline search.


MSI has been detected in many solid malignancies although the definition of instability applied has been variable. It is most commonly found in sporadic malignancies that also occur in the HNPCC syndrome such as colorectal, stomach, endometrial and ovarian cancer. MSI may impart a favorable prognosis in colorectal, gastric, pancreatic and probably oesophageal cancers but a poor prognosis in non small cell lung cancer. In clinical studies colorectal cancers demonstrating MSI respond better to chemotherapy while in vitro studies using MSI positive cell lines show resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.


MSI may be a useful genetic marker in prognosis and could be an influential factor in deciding treatment options. However, in many cancers its significance remains unclear and more evaluation is required.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center