Nectin-4 and DNA mismatch repair proteins expression in upper urinary tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC) as a model for tumor targeting approaches: an ImGO pilot study

BMC Cancer. 2022 Feb 14;22(1):168. doi: 10.1186/s12885-022-09259-z.


Background: Upper urinary tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC) accounts for only about 5-10% of all urothelial cancers and is characterized by an aggressive and frequently rapidly fatal behavior. However, detailed knowledge of its molecular profile is still lacking.

Materials and methods: We identified, by chart analysis, patients who underwent radical nephroureterectomy or diagnostic biopsy for UTUC between January 2015 and August 2020 at the Santa Maria Hospital of Terni, in Italy. Eligible patients were required to have also adequate clinical informations and follow-up details. The primary objective of the study was to evaluate DNA mismatch repair (MMR) proteins and Nectin-4 immunohistochemical expression in UTUC, looking also for an eventual correlation between these molecular features. The secondary objective was to investigate genomic instability in the case of a MMR protein loss. Expression of proteins was assessed by using immunohistochemistry and microsatellite instability (MSI) performed by next generation sequencing. Nectin-4 expression was reported using an intensity scoring system (score, 0-3+), instead the expression of DNA MMR proteins was indicated as present (no loss) or not present (loss).

Results: Thirty four cases have been evaluated and 27 considered eligible for the study with their tumor samples analyzed. Nectin-4 was found to be expressed in 44% of cases and 18.5% of patients showed defective-MMR phenotype. We found a significant correlation between Nectin-4 expression and MSH2/MSH6 protein loss. Out of 7 patients with DNA MMR proteins loss or equivocal phenotype, 3 showed MSI.

Conclusions: Our pilot study suggest a possible relationship between Nectin-4 and DNA MMR protein expression in UTUC and a clinically significant correlation between defective MMR phenotype and genomic instability. Because of the possible implications of these data for innovative treatment approaches, the need for further studies in this area is warranted.

Keywords: DNA mismatch repair proteins; MSH2/MSH6 loss; Microsatellite instability; Nectin-4; Upper tract urothelial carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Carcinoma / genetics*
  • Carcinoma / surgery
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephroureterectomy
  • Phenotype
  • Pilot Projects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Urologic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Urologic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Urothelium / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • NECTIN4 protein, human