The clinical and pathological features of carcinomas of the pancreas with DNA replication errors (RER+) have not been characterized. Eighty-two xenografted carcinomas of the pancreas were screened for DNA replication errors using polymerase chain reaction amplification of microsatellite markers. Cases with microsatellite instability in at least two markers of a minimum of five tested were considered RER+. RER status was correlated with histological appearance, karyotype of the carcinomas when available, K-ras mutational status, and patient outcome. Three (3.7%) of the eighty-two carcinomas were RER+. In contrast to typical gland-forming adenocarcinomas of the pancreas, all three RER+ carcinomas were poorly differentiated and had expanding borders and a prominent syncytial growth pattern. Neither a Crohn's-like lymphoid infiltrate nor extracellular mucin production were prominent. Ductal adenocarcinomas of the pancreas typically contain a mutant K-ras gene, yet all three RER+ carcinomas had wild-type K-ras. One of the three RER+ carcinomas was karyotyped and showed a near diploid pattern. All three of the RER+ tumors were removed via Whipple resection. One of the three patients is free of disease 16 months after pancreaticoduodenectomy, one is alive and free of tumor at 52 months but developed two colon carcinomas during this period, and the third died of pancreatic cancer at 4 months. None of the three patients had a family history of colorectal carcinoma. A review of the K-ras wild-type carcinomas in a previously characterized series of pancreatic carcinomas with known K-ras mutational status identified two additional cancers with poor differentiation, a syncytial growth pattern, and pushing borders. Both of the cancers were diploid and both patients were longterm survivors (over 5 years). The inclusion of such patients in previous prognostic studies of pancreas cancer may explain the failure of histological grade to be a predictor of prognosis. These data suggest that DNA replication errors occur in a small percentage of resected carcinomas of the pancreas and that wild-type K-ras gene status and a medullary phenotype characterized by poor differentiation, and expanding pattern of invasion, and syncytial growth should suggest the possibility of DNA replication errors in carcinomas of the pancreas.