A prospective cohort study shows unique epigenetic, genetic, and prognostic features of synchronous colorectal cancers

Gastroenterology. 2009 Nov;137(5):1609-20.e1-3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.08.002. Epub 2009 Aug 14.


Background & aims: Synchronous colorectal neoplasias (2 or more primary carcinomas identified in the same patient) are caused by common genetic and environmental factors and can be used to study the field effect. Synchronous colon cancers have not been compared with control solitary cancers in a prospective study.

Methods: We analyzed data collected from 47 patients with synchronous colorectal cancers and 2021 solitary colorectal cancers (controls) in 2 prospective cohort studies. Tumors samples were analyzed for methylation in LINE-1 and 16 CpG islands (CACNA1G, CDKN2A [p16], CRABP1, IGF2, MLH1, NEUROG1, RUNX3, SOCS1, CHFR, HIC1, IGFBP3, MGMT, MINT1, MINT31, p14 [ARF], and WRN); microsatellite instability (MSI); the CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP); 18q loss of heterozygosity; KRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA mutations; and expression of beta-catenin, p53, p21, p27, cyclin D1, fatty acid synthase, and cyclooxygenase-2.

Results: Compared with patients with solitary colorectal cancer, synchronous colorectal cancer patients had reduced overall survival time (log-rank, P = .0048; hazard ratio [HR], 1.71; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.17-2.50; P = .0053; multivariate HR, 1.47; 95% CI: 1.00-2.17; P = .049). Compared with solitary tumors, synchronous tumors more frequently contained BRAF mutations (P = .0041), CIMP-high (P = .013), and MSI-high (P = .037). Methylation levels of LINE-1 (Spearman r = 0.82; P = .0072) and CpG island methylation (P < .0001) correlated between synchronous cancer pairs from the same individuals.

Conclusions: Synchronous colorectal cancers had more frequent mutations in BRAF, were more frequently CIMP- and MSI-high, and had a worse prognosis than solitary colorectal cancers. Similar epigenomic and epigenetic events were frequently observed within a synchronous cancer pair, suggesting the presence of a field defect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Multiple Primary / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Multiple Primary / mortality*
  • Neoplasms, Multiple Primary / pathology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Survival Rate


  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf