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Pathologe. 1998 Jul;19(4):269-78.

[Molecular cancer disposition diagnosis exemplified by colorectal carcinoma. What is the contribution of pathology?].

[Article in German]

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Institut für Pathologie, Universität Regensburg.


During the last few years, the molecular basis of several cancer predisposition syndromes has been discovered which offers new tools for cancer prevention and early detection. This will be demonstrated in one of the most frequent hereditary cancer syndromes, namely the hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) which accounts for about 5% to 8% of CRC. Thereby, families with exclusively CRC (Lynch type I syndrome) and those with extracolonic cancers especially of endometrium, stomach, small bowel and upper urinary tract (Lynch type II syndrome) can be discriminated. At the molecular level, HNPCC is caused by germline mutations in one of the mismatch repair genes (hMSH2, hMLH1, hMSH6, hPMS2). Thus, nucleotide mispairings occurring particularly within simple repetitive genomic sequences (microsatellites) during replication are no longer be repaired properly and can be demonstrated by PCR as so-called microsatellite instability (MSI). Since more than 90% of HNPCC associated and only about 15% of sporadic CRC show MSI, this test is a useful tool for HNPCC screening. In case of a negative result HNPCC is highly unlikely. In positive cases (with > or = 2 out of 5 unstable defined microsatellite markers) the definite molecular diagnosis can only be obtained by sequencing the mismatch repair genes from the patient's blood or normal DNA. As immunohistochemistry reveals loss of hMSH2 or hMLH1 expression in most MSI positive CRC, these data provide useful information for the sequencing strategy. Molecular tumor screening by MSI test and immunohistochemistry is recommended in patients i.) with a positive family history (acc. to the Amsterdam criteria), ii.) suffering from multiple HNPCC related carcinomas, iii.) with HNPCC related cancer before 45 ys of age, and iv.) with right-sided CRC exhibiting medullary, signet-ring or mucinous differentiation. Finally, these tests as well as genetic counseling and treatment of the patient need to be done by an interdisciplinary approach. Thereby, the pathologist can substantially contribute to identify HNPCC related carcinomas either by clinical or morphological criteria and to initiate the molecular screening test.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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