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Immunohistochemical staining for mismatch repair proteins, and its relevance in the diagnosis of hereditary non‐polyposis colorectal cancer. BJS 2007; 94: 1020-1027.

Published: 17th April 2007

Authors: J. Ewald, C. M. Rodrigue, N. Mourra, J. H. Lefèvre, J.‐F. Fléjou, E. Tiret et al.


Hereditary non‐polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) arises mostly from germline mutations of the mismatch repair genes MSH2 and MLH1. The diagnosis of HNPCC is based on a set of clinical criteria that may be too restrictive to identify all affected patients. Immunohistochemical staining (IHC) for the mismatch repair proteins, MutS homologue 2 (MSH2) and MutL homologue 1 (MLH1), reliably identifies the microsatellite instability phenotype. This study evaluated the ability of IHC to detect germline mutations in an unselected group of patients with colorectal cancer (CRC).


All patients with CRC operated on between July 2000 and March 2003, and demonstrating a loss of protein, were contacted. Following informed consent, searchs for germline mutation and methylation of the promoter were performed on normal and tumoral DNA.


Thirty patients agreed to participate, four of whom fulfilled the Amsterdam II criteria. Loss of expression of MLH1 was found in 20 patients, and loss of expression of MSH2 in ten patients. Four of the MLH1‐deficient patients had a germline MLH1 point mutation (positive predictive value (PPV) 20 (95 per cent confidence interval (c.i.) 2 to 38 per cent) and 11 had promoter methylation. Seven of the MSH2‐deficient patients had a germline MSH2 point mutation (PPV 70 (95 per cent c.i. 54 to 96 per cent), and none showed promoter methylation.


MLH1‐deficient patients who are young or have a positive family history of cancer should be referred for genetic testing and counselling, whereas MSH2‐deficient patients should be counselled in the same way as patients with HNPCC. Copyright © 2007 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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