Research Papers:

Somatic microsatellite variability as a predictive marker for colorectal cancer and liver cancer progression

Zalman Vaksman and Harold R. Garner _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:5760-5771. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.3306

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Zalman Vaksman1 and Harold R. Garner1

1 Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA


Harold R. Garner, email:

Keywords: Microsatellites, Colorectal cancer, Liver cancer, Somatic Variability

Received: December 11, 2014 Accepted: January 02, 2015 Published: January 21, 2015


Microsatellites (MSTs) are short tandem repeated genetic motifs that comprise ~3% of the genome. MST instability (MSI), defined as acquired/lost primary alleles at a small subset of microsatellite loci (e.g. Bethesda markers), is a clinically relevant marker for colorectal cancer. However, these markers are not applicable to other types of cancers, specifically, for liver cancer which has a high mortality rate. Here we show that somatic MST variability (SMV), defined as the presence of additional, non-primary (aka minor) alleles at MST loci, is a complementary measure of MSI, and a genetic marker for colorectal and liver cancer. Re-analysis of Illumina sequenced exomes from The Cancer Genome Atlas indicates that SMV may distinguish a subpopulation of African American patients with colorectal cancer, which represents ~33% of the population in this study. Further, for liver cancer, a higher rate of SMV may be indicative of an earlier age of onset. The work presented here suggests that classical MSI should be expanded to include SMV, going beyond alterations of the primary alleles at a small number of microsatellite loci. This measure of SMV may represent a potential new diagnostic for a variety of cancers and may provide new information for colorectal cancer patients.

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