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Am J Surg Pathol. 2011 Dec;35(12):1902-5. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e318237c6ab.

"Null pattern" of immunoreactivity in a Lynch syndrome-associated colon cancer due to germline MSH2 mutation and somatic MLH1 hypermethylation.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA.


Lynch syndrome accounts for approximately 3% of newly diagnosed colorectal cancers and is caused by germline defects in DNA mismatch repair genes. Screening of patients for Lynch syndrome can be done by immunohistochemical staining for a panel of mismatch repair proteins and/or DNA testing for microsatellite instability. We describe a unique "null" immunophenotype in a Lynch syndrome associated colon cancer in a 71-year-old woman who also had a personal history of ureteral cancer and a strong family history of various malignancies. Immunohistochemical stains for MLH1, MSH2, PMS2, and MSH6 were completely negative in the tumor cells, with positive staining in stromal and inflammatory cells. Mutation analysis using peripheral blood showed a germline G587R mutation in the MSH2 gene. Further testing revealed the tumor to be positive for MLH1 promoter hypermethylation. Normal colonic mucosa adjacent to the tumor was negative for MLH1 promoter methylation. The lack of immunostaining for any of the 4 DNA mismatch repair proteins in this extremely unusual case was, therefore, related to a germline MSH2 mutation and somatic MLH1 promoter hypermethylation.

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