Molecular analysis of colorectal tumors within a diverse patient cohort at a single institution

Clin Cancer Res. 2012 Jan 15;18(2):350-9. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-1397. Epub 2011 Nov 23.


Purpose: African American colorectal cancer patients have worse survival outcomes than Caucasian patients. To determine whether differences exist in the molecular mechanisms driving colorectal cancer between African Americans and Caucasians, we characterized patient tumors from a single institution by assessing genetic alterations involved in colorectal cancer progression and response to treatment.

Experimental design: We retrospectively examined 448 African Americans and Caucasians diagnosed with colorectal cancer at The University of Chicago Medical Center between 1992 and 2002. Microsatellite instability (MSI) status was determined by genotyping the BAT25, BAT26, BAT40, D5S346, and BAX loci. Mutations in KRAS codons 12 and 13 and BRAF codon 600 were identified by direct sequencing. MSI and detected mutations were correlated with clinicopathologic features.

Results: Overall, no difference existed in MSI or BRAF mutation frequencies between African Americans and Caucasians. However, African Americans with microsatellite stable (MSS)/MSI-low (MSI-L) tumors had a higher proportion of KRAS mutations than Caucasians (34% vs. 23%, P = 0.048) that was isolated to proximal colon cancers and primarily driven by mutations in codon 13. There was no racial difference in receipt of chemotherapy, but African Americans with MSS/MSI-L tumors had a 73% increased risk of death over Caucasians that could not be explained by known prognostic factors.

Conclusions: The significantly higher risk of death among African Americans with MSS/MSI-L tumors may be related to differences in the distribution of factors influencing response to standard therapies. These data underscore the need for further research into the molecular mechanisms driving colorectal cancer progression in underserved and understudied populations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • White People
  • ras Proteins / genetics*


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins