Relevance, pathogenesis, and testing algorithm for mismatch repair-defective colorectal carcinomas: a report of the association for molecular pathology

J Mol Diagn. 2012 Mar-Apr;14(2):91-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jmoldx.2011.11.001. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Loss-of-function defects in DNA mismatch repair (MMR), which manifest as high levels of microsatellite instability (MSI), occur in approximately 15% of all colorectal carcinomas (CRCs). This molecular subset of CRC characterizes patients with better stage-specific prognoses who experience no benefit from 5-fluorouracil chemotherapy. Most MMR-deficient (dMMR) CRCs are sporadic, but 15% to 20% are due to inherited predisposition (Lynch syndrome). High penetrance of CRCs in germline MMR gene mutation carriers emphasizes the importance of accurate diagnosis of Lynch syndrome carriers. Family-based (Amsterdam), patient/family-based (Bethesda), morphology-based, microsatellite-based, and IHC-based screening criteria do not individually detect all germline mutation carriers. These limitations support the use of multiple concurrent tests and the screening of all patients with newly diagnosed CRC. This approach is resource intensive but would increase detection of inherited and de novo germline mutations to guide family screening. Although CRC prognosis and prediction of 5-fluorouracil response are similar in both the Lynch and sporadic dMMR subgroups, these subgroups differ significantly with regard to the implications for family members. We recommend that new CRCs should be classified into sporadic MMR-proficient, sporadic dMMR, or Lynch dMMR subgroups. The concurrent use of MSI testing, MMR protein IHC, and BRAF c.1799T>A mutation analysis would detect almost all dMMR CRCs, would classify 94% of all new CRCs into these MMR subgroups, and would guide secondary molecular testing of the remainder.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / classification*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Pathology, Molecular*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Prognosis