Rate of dissemination and prognosis in early and advanced stage colorectal cancer based on microsatellite instability status: systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Colorectal Dis. 2021 Aug;36(8):1573-1596. doi: 10.1007/s00384-021-03874-1. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Introduction: For the past two decades, microsatellite instability (MSI) has been reported as a robust clinical biomarker associated with survival advantage attributed to its immunogenicity. However, MSI is also associated with high-risk adverse pathological features (poorly differentiated, mucinous, signet cell, higher grade) and exhibits a double-edged sword phenomenon. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the rate of dissemination and the prognosis of early and advanced stage colorectal cancer based on MSI status.

Methods: A systematic literature search of original studies was performed on Ovid searching MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, American College of Physicians ACP Journal Club, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects DARE, Clinical Trials databases from inception of database to June 2019. Colorectal cancer, microsatellite instability, genomic instability and DNA mismatch repair were used as key words or MeSH terms. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guideline was followed. Data were pooled using a random-effects model with odds ratio (OR) as the effect size. Statistical analysis was performed using RevMan ver 5.3 Cochrane Collaboration.

Results: From 5288 studies, 136 met the inclusion criteria (n = 92,035; MSI-H 11,746 (13%)). Overall, MSI-H was associated with improved OS (OR, 0.81; 95% CI 0.73-0.90), DFS (OR, 0.73; 95% CI 0.66-0.81) and DSS (OR, 0.69; 95% CI 0.52-0.90). Importantly, MSI-H had a protective effect against dissemination with a significantly lower rate of lymph node and distant metastases. By stage, the protective effect of MSI-H in terms of OS and DFS was observed clearly in stage II and stage III. Survival in stage I CRC was excellent irrespective of MSI status. In stage IV CRC, without immunotherapy, MSI-H was not associated with any survival benefit.

Conclusions: MSI-H CRC was associated with an overall survival benefit with a lower rate of dissemination. Survival benefit was clearly evident in both stage II and III CRC, but MSI-H was neither a robust prognostic marker in stage I nor stage IV CRC without immunotherapy.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; DNA mismatch repair; Genomic instability; Lynch syndrome; Microsatellite instability; Prognosis; Sporadic cancer; Survival.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • DNA Mismatch Repair
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Microsatellite Instability*
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Prognosis