Microsatellite instability as a marker of prognosis and response to therapy: a meta-analysis of colorectal cancer survival data

Eur J Cancer. 2010 Oct;46(15):2788-98. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.05.009. Epub 2010 Jun 4.


Background and methods: We have reviewed and pooled data from published studies to evaluate the relationship between microsatellite instability (MSI) and colorectal cancer (CRC) prognosis. Thirty-one eligible studies reporting survival in 12782 patients characterised for MSI were pooled using a fixed- or random-effects model.

Results: The summary odds ratio (OR) estimate for overall survival (OS) associated with MSI was 0.6 (95%CI 0.53-0.69, p<0.0001), with no evidence of heterogeneity. The effect was similar for disease-free survival (DFS) (OR=0.58, 95%CI 0.47-0.72, p<0.0001). In a subset of patients treated with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-based chemotherapy a significant improved prognosis was found for microsatellite stable (MSS) tumours (OR=0.52, 95%CI 0.4-0.6, p<0.0001) with no heterogeneity (p=0.53; I(2)=0%). By contrast a large heterogeneity characterised the data relative to 396 patients with MSI tumours (OR=0.69, 95%CI 0.3-1.5, p=0.1; heterogeneity: p=0.03; I(2)=58%).

Conclusions: This study confirmed the association between MSI and favourable prognosis as determined by both OS and DFS of CRC patients. A significant beneficial effect of 5-FU therapy was found for MSS tumours whilst no clear conclusion was reached for MSI tumours due to the high inter-study heterogeneity. We propose that this inconclusive result is due to the use of a single marker, such as MSI, that cannot account alone for the complexity of the mechanisms underlying 5-FU cytotoxicity. Future studies to predict response to 5-FU chemotherapy should include additional genome stability markers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Instability*
  • Publication Bias
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Fluorouracil