Approximately 90% of colorectal cancer cases are sporadic without family history or genetic predisposition, while in less than 10% a causative genetic event has been identified. Historically, colorectal cancer classification was only based on clinical and pathological features. Many efforts have been made to discover the genetic and molecular features of colorectal cancer, and there is more and more evidence that these features determine the prognosis and response to (targeted) treatment. Colorectal cancer is a heterogeneous disease, with three known major molecular groups. The most common is the chromosomal instable group, characterized by an accumulation of mutations in specific oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. The second is the microsatellite instable group, caused by dysfunction of DNA mismatch repair genes leading to genetic hypermutability. The CpG Island Methylation phenotype is the third group, distinguished by hypermethylation. Colorectal cancer subtyping has also been addressed using genome-wide gene expression profiling in large patient cohorts and recently several molecular classification systems have been proposed. In this review we would like to provide an up-to-date overview of the genetic aspects of colorectal cancer.
Keywords: Colorectal cancer; genetics; molecular pathways; subtypes.