Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
Background: Early onset sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC) is a biologically and clinically distinct entity hypothesized to exhibit differences in histological features and microsatellite instability (MSI) as compared to typical onset CRC. This study compared the MSI status, mismatch repair enzyme deficiency and clinicopathological features of early onset (aged 45 years) with controls (>45 years). Materials and Methods: A total of 30 cases and 30 controls were analyzed for MSI status using the Bethesda marker panel. Using antibodies against hMLH1, hMSH2 and hMSH6, mismatch repair protein expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry. Molecular characteristics were correlated with clinicopathological features. Results: The early onset sporadic CRCs were significantly more poorly differentiated tumors, with higher N2 nodal involvement and greater frequency of signet ring phenotype than the typical onset cases. MSI was observed in 18/30 cases, with 12/18 designated as MSI-high (MSI-H) and 6/18 designated as MSI-low (MSI-L). In the control group, 14 patients exhibited MSI, with 7 MSI-H and 7 MSI-L. MSI tumors in both cases and controls exhibited loss of hMLH1, hMSH2 and hMSH6. MSS tumors did not exhibit loss of expression of MMR proteins, except hMLH1 protein in 3 controls. No statistically significant difference was noted in MSI status or expression of MMR proteins in cases versus controls. Conclusions: Microsatellite status is comparable between early and typical onset sporadic CRC patients in Pakistan suggesting that differences in clinicopathological features between these two subsets are attributable to other molecular mechanisms.