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South African Journal of Science

Print version ISSN 0038-2353

Abstract

CRONJE, L.; BECKER, P.J.; PATERSON, A.C.  and  RAMSAY, M.. Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer is predicted to contribute towards colorectal cancer in young South African blacks. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2009, vol.105, n.1-2, pp. 68-72. ISSN 0038-2353.

A disproportionately large number of young (<50 years) black patients present with colorectal cancer (CRC) in South Africa. Although a phenomenon previously described elsewhere in Africa, its specific molecular basis, whether sporadic or hereditary, has not been established. Molecular analysis of these tumours could link them to the features known to be associated with specific types of hereditary colorectal cancer, specifically through examination of levels of microsatellite instability, promoter methylation and the presence or absence of KRAS and BRAF mutations. The molecular features of cancer tissue samples from 44 CRC cases of black and white patients in South Africa were accordingly retrospectively analysed without knowledge of family history. Compared with samples from older blacks (>50 years), those from young black patients presented more often with a low methylation phenotype (CIMP-L) and high levels of microsatellite instability (MSI-H). Furthermore, as determined by real-time PCR using probe technology, the tissues from 35% of young blacks showed mutations within exon 1 of the KRAS gene. The BRAF-V600E mutation was only evident in the case of a single young black patient. Based on these results it seems likely that a proportion of CRC cases in young black patients from South Africa develop through the accumulation of mutations resulting in a mismatch repair deficiency linked to MSI-H and, possibly, germline mutations in the mismatch repair genes. The features in these patients are consistent with a diagnosis of the Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) syndrome. This finding has important implications for patient management and suggests that family members may be at high risk for CRC.

Keywords : colorectal neoplasms; hereditary cancer syndromes.

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