Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 1763–1768 | Cite as

Microsatellite instability and survival in rectal cancer

  • Wade S. SamowitzEmail author
  • Karen Curtin
  • Roger K. Wolff
  • Sheryl R. Tripp
  • Bette J. Caan
  • Martha L. Slattery
Brief report



High levels of microsatellite instability (MSI-H) have been associated in many studies with improved prognosis in colon cancer. Very few studies have evaluated the effect of MSI-H on rectal cancer survival. We assessed MSI-H and other genetic and epigenetic changes on survival of 990 individuals diagnosed with first primary rectal cancer.


MSI was assessed primarily by instability in the mononucleotide repeat BAT-26. The BRAF V600E mutation was assessed by TaqMan assay. The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) was determined by methylation-specific PCR of CpG islands in MLH1, methylated in tumors (MINT)1, (MINT)2, (MINT)31 and CDKN2A. KRAS2 codons 12 and 13 mutations, and TP53 mutations in exons 5–8 were determined by sequencing.


Multivariate analysis revealed that MSI-H (HRR 2.47, 95% CI 1.13–5.40) and KRAS2 mutations (HRR 1.37, 95% CI 1.04–1.81) were associated with a significantly higher risk of dying of rectal cancer. Only one of 22 MSI-H tumors showed a BRAF V600E mutation. Of 15 MSI-H rectal cancers evaluated for methylation, two exhibited MLH1 methylation and four exhibited CIMP.


The genetic and epigenetic characteristics of MSI-H rectal cancers suggest that they are enriched for Lynch-associated tumors; adverse prognosis associated with MSI-H in these tumors may reflect the relatively high frequency of Lynch-associated cancers and/or the effect of radiation or chemotherapy on Lynch-associated rectal cancers or MSI tumors in general.


Colorectal cancer Microsatellite instability Lynch syndrome Survival Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer 



CpG island methylator phenotype


Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer


Polymerase chain reaction


Odds ratio


Confidence interval



We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Sandra Edwards, Leslie Palmer, and Judy Morse to the data collection and management efforts of this study and to Michael Hoffman and Erica Wolff for mutational analysis.Funding: This study was funded by NIH grants R01 CA48998 and CA61757 to Dr. Slattery. The Utah Cancer Registry is funded by Contract #N01-PC-67000 from the National Cancer Institute, with additional support from the State of Utah Department of Health and the University of Utah, the Northern California Cancer Registry, and the Sacramento Tumor Registry. The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of the National Cancer Institute.

Competing interests

The authors have no conflicts of interests to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wade S. Samowitz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karen Curtin
    • 2
  • Roger K. Wolff
    • 2
  • Sheryl R. Tripp
    • 1
  • Bette J. Caan
    • 3
  • Martha L. Slattery
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PathologyUniversity of Utah Health Sciences CenterSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of Utah Health Sciences CenterSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Division of ResearchKaiser Permanente Medical Care ProgramOaklandUSA

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