Purpose: The Bethesda guidelines were developed for selection of patients whose tumors should be tested for high microsatellite instability. This study examined the validity of the different Bethesda criteria in relation to microsatellite instability status to simplify their use in clinical practice.
Methods: A total of 164 patients with colorectal or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer-associated cancers were registered on the basis of the Amsterdam criteria without age limitations (11 cases), multiple tumors (2 cases), the accumulation of colorectal cancer in the family (no first-degree relatives affected or the index patient's age up to 50 years; 45 cases), an early age at onset up to 50 years (13 cases), morphologic and histopathologic manifestations (right-sided colorectal cancer, mucinous undifferentiated histology; 1 case), and the Bethesda criteria (92 cases). The microsatellite instability status of tumors was determined using the International Collaborative Group on Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer marker reference panel.
Results: When applying all Bethesda criteria, high microsatellite instability tumors were identified in our hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer registry with a sensitivity of 87 percent. Twenty-nine percent (27/92) of the Bethesda-positive patients displayed high microsatellite instability compared with 6 percent of patients (4/72) not meeting these criteria (P < 0.001). Only Bethesda Criteria 1, 3, and 4 showed a significantly different distribution of the microsatellite instability status when compared with those of the remaining patients registered (P < or = 0.001). These three criteria detected high microsatellite instability tumors in 48 percent (10/21), 50 percent (18/36), and 31 percent (21/67) of patients, respectively. When applying these criteria only, a cumulative detection rate of 77 percent of all (24/31) high microsatellite instability cases was found, thereby identifying 89 percent of high microsatellite instability tumors among the Bethesda-positive patients. Patients matching Criteria 1, 3, and 4 frequently showed hMSH2 or hMLH1 germline mutations and tumor-specific loss of protein expression.
Conclusion: In our hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer registry the complete Bethesda criteria showed the highest sensitivity to identify patients with high microsatellite instability tumors. However, for general medical practice outside academic centers, three criteria are reasonably accurate for adequate high microsatellite instability tumor selection.