Background: Upper urothelial cancer (UUC), i.e. transitional cell carcinomas of the renal pelvis and the ureter, occur at an increased frequency in patients with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). Defective mismatch repair (MMR) specifically characterizes HNPCC-associated tumors, but also occurs in subsets of some sporadic tumors, e.g. in gastrointestinal cancer and endometrial cancer.
Methods: We assessed the contribution of defective MMR to the development of UUC in a population-based series from the southern Swedish Cancer Registry, through microsatellite instability (MSI) analysis and immunohistochemical evaluation of expression of the MMR proteins MLH1, PMS2, MSH2, and MSH6.
Results: A MSI-high phenotype was identified in 9/216 (4%) successfully analyzed patients and a MSI-low phenotype in 5/216 (2%). Loss of MMR protein immunostaining was found in 11/216 (5%) tumors, and affected most commonly MSH2 and MSH6.
Conclusion: This population-based series indicates that somatic MMR inactivation is a minor pathway in the development of UUC, but tumors that display defective MMR are, based on the immunohistochemical expression pattern, likely to be associated with HNPCC.