Context: Microsatellite instability (MSI) due to defective mismatch repair (MMR) genes has been reported in the majority of colorectal tumors from patients with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome and in 10% to 15% of sporadic colorectal cancers. The identification of cancers associated with MSI requires classical molecular testing as the gold standard.
Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of immunohistochemistry with antibodies directed against 4 MMR proteins as a screening tool for carcinomas with MSI.
Methods: In this study, 204 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded colorectal carcinomas were examined for MMR protein expression (hMLH1, hMSH2, hMSH6, and hPMS2) and analyzed for MSI (MSI-H indicates at least 2 of 6 markers affected). These results were correlated with histopathologic parameters.
Results: Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that loss of expression of at least 1 protein was present in 17% of cases. One hundred percent of carcinomas that showed high instability (MSI-H) showed loss of expression of hMLH1, hMSH2, or hMSH6. Loss of expression of 2 proteins was present in 59.4% of MSI-H cases, with only 2 combinations, namely, hMLH1/hPMS2 and hMSH2/hMSH6. Isolated loss of hMSH6 expression was present in 2 MSI-H cases.
Conclusions: These findings confirm that examination of MMR protein expression by immunohistochemistry is a simple method to diagnose colorectal cancer with MSI. Our data suggest that the study of hMSH6 may be useful, in addition to hMLH1 and hMSH2. Moreover, immunohistochemistry could represent a screening method with which to direct research on the mutations of MMR genes observed in hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome.