Microsatellite Instability-High Endometrial Cancers with MLH1 Promoter Hypermethylation Have Distinct Molecular and Clinical Profiles

Clin Cancer Res. 2022 Oct 3;28(19):4302-4311. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-22-0713.


Purpose: Microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) endometrial carcinomas are underpinned by distinct mechanisms of DNA mismatch repair deficiency (MMR-D). We sought to characterize the clinical and genetic features of MSI-H endometrial cancers harboring germline or somatic mutations in MMR genes or MLH1 promoter hypermethylation (MLH1ph).

Experimental design: Of > 1,100 patients with endometrial cancer that underwent clinical tumor-normal sequencing, 184 had MSI-H endometrial cancers due to somatic MMR mutations or MLH1ph, or harbored pathogenic germline MMR mutations. Clinicopathologic features, mutational landscape, and tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) scores were compared among MMR-D groups using nonparametric tests. Log-rank tests were used for categorical associations; Kaplan-Meier method and Wald test based on Cox proportional hazards models were employed for continuous variables and survival analyses.

Results: Compared with patients with germline (n = 25) and somatic (n = 39) mutations, patients with MLH1ph endometrial cancers (n = 120) were older (P < 0.001), more obese (P = 0.001) and had more advanced disease at diagnosis (P = 0.025). MLH1ph endometrial cancers were enriched for JAK1 somatic mutations as opposed to germline MMR-D endometrial cancers which showed enrichment for pathogenic ERBB2 mutations. MLH1ph endometrial cancers exhibited lower tumor mutational burden and TIL scores compared with endometrial cancers harboring germline or somatic MMR mutations (P < 0.01). MLH1ph endometrial cancer patients had shorter progression-free survival (PFS) on univariate analysis, but in multivariable models, stage at diagnosis remained the only predictor of survival. For stage I/II endometrial cancer, two-year PFS was inferior for patients with MLH1ph endometrial cancers compared with germline and somatic MMR groups (70% vs. 100%, respectively).

Conclusions: MLH1ph endometrial cancers likely constitute a distinct clinicopathologic entity compared with germline and somatic MMR-D ECs with potential treatment implications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms
  • Colorectal Neoplasms
  • DNA
  • DNA Mismatch Repair / genetics
  • Endometrial Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Endometrial Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Female
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Instability*
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1 / genetics
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary


  • MLH1 protein, human
  • DNA
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1

Supplementary concepts

  • Turcot syndrome