Reduced COX-2 protein in colorectal cancer with defective mismatch repair

William E. Karnes, Rebecca Shattuck-Brandt, Lawrence J. Burgart, Raymond N. DuBois, David J. Tester, Julie M. Cunningham, Cheong Yong Kim, Shannon K. McDonnell, Daniel J. Schaid, Stephen N. Thibodeau

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114 Scopus citations


Most colorectal adenomas and carcinomas arise in the setting of chromosomal instability characterized by progressive loss of heterozygosity. In contrast, approximately 15-20% of colorectal neoplasms arise through a distinct genetic pathway characterized by microsatellite instability (MSI) associated with frequent loss of expression of one of the DNA mismatch repair enzymes, most often hMLH1 or hMSH2. These distinct genetic pathways are reflected by differences in tumor histopathology, distribution in the colon, prognosis, and dwell time required for progression from adenoma to carcinoma. To determine whether these two groups of tumors differ in their expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a putative chemopreventative target, immunostaining for this protein was performed in colorectal cancers categorized by the presence (n=41) and absence (n=66) of defective mismatch repair. Defective mismatch repair was defined by the presence of tumor microsatellite instability (MSI-H, ≥40% of markers demonstrating instability) and by the absence of protein expression for either hMLH1 or hMSH2. Overall, our results showed that low or absent COX-2 staining was significantly more common among tumors with defective mismatch repair (P=0.001). Other features predictive of low COX-2 staining included marked tumor infiltrating lymphocytosis, and solid/cribiform or signet ring histological patterns. These observations indicate that colorectal cancers with molecular and phenotypic characteristics of defective DNA mismatch repair express lower levels of COX- 2. The clinical implications of this biological distinction remain unknown but should be considered when assessing the efficacy of COX-2 inhibitors for chemoprevention in patients whose tumors may arise in the setting of defective DNA mismatch repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5473-5477
Number of pages5
JournalCancer research
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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