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World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Mar 28;13(12):1767-9.

Microsatellite instability and MLH1 promoter hypermethylation in colorectal cancer.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Hospital, Tel Aviv University, Israel.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is caused by a series of genetic or epigenetic changes, and in the last decade there has been an increased awareness that there are multiple forms of colorectal cancer that develop through different pathways. Microsatellite instability is involved in the genesis of about 15% of sporadic colorectal cancers and most of hereditary nonpolyposis cancers. Tumors with a high frequency of microsatellite instability tend to be diploid, to possess a mucinous histology, and to have a surrounding lymphoid reaction. They are more prevalent in the proximal colon and have a fast pass from polyp to cancer. Nevertheless, they are associated with longer survival than stage-matched tumors with microsatellite stability. Resistance of colorectal cancers with a high frequency of microsatellite instability to 5-fluorouracil-based chemotherapy is well established. Silencing the MLH1 gene expression by its promoter methylation stops the formation of MLH1 protein, and prevents the normal activation of the DNA repair gene. This is an important cause for genomic instability and cell proliferation to the point of colorectal cancer formation. Better knowledge of this process will have a huge impact on colorectal cancer management, prevention, treatment and prognosis.

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