KRAS and BRAF mutation analysis can be reliably performed on aspirated cytological specimens of metastatic colorectal carcinoma

Cytopathology. 2011 Dec;22(6):358-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2303.2010.00812.x. Epub 2010 Oct 4.


Background: Sanger sequencing is one of several reliable methods in use to detect KRAS and BRAF mutations to facilitate clinical patient selection for anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibody therapy in unresectable metastatic colorectal adenocarcinoma (CRC). Most analyses are made on pretreatment biopsy or resection specimens. There is a scarcity of published studies on the suitability of cytological samples for KRAS testing in this setting.

Methods: DNA extraction was attempted on 11 search-retrieved paired cases of histological resections or excisions of CRC and their corresponding cytological samples (representing metastases) and tested for KRAS mutations in exon 2 and 3, as well as BRAF exon 15 mutations by Sanger sequencing. Only KRAS wild-type cases were subjected to BRAF analysis because this is the setting with true diagnostic value, as these mutations are mutually exclusive.

Results: Of the 11 paired cases analysed, only eight histology cases showed satisfactory DNA quality for sequencing. Thus, only eight of the corresponding cytology cases were analysed. Seven of the eight cases tested showed the same KRAS genotype on both the aspirated cytology specimen of metastatic carcinoma and the primary tumour (histological specimen), from which we derive an overall concordance rate of 87.5%. The single discordant case was likely to be a true difference as it was demonstrated again on repeat testing of both samples. No BRAF mutations were detected on the four KRAS wild-type cases.

Conclusion: A range of cytological samples are suitable for KRAS and BRAF mutation testing, be it from previously stained preparations or cell blocks. These samples would be highly valuable in cases where cytological samples are the only material available for mutation testing.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle / methods
  • Cetuximab
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Cytogenetic Analysis / methods*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis / methods*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins / genetics*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • KRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • ErbB Receptors
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins
  • Cetuximab