Microsatellite instability (MIN) has been detected in many cancer types; however, recently we also observed it in the nonneoplastic but inflammatory setting of pancreatitis. Consequently, we sought to examine whether MIN was present in another inflammatory condition, ulcerative colitis (UC). MIN was found in 50% of UC patients whose colonic mucosa was negative for dysplasia, 46% of those with high-grade dysplasia, and 40% of those with cancer but in none of the nine ischemic or infectious colitis controls (P < 0.03). Thus, UC patients may have MIN within mucosa that has no histological evidence of neoplastic change. MIN in this setting may reflect the inability of DNA repair mechanisms to compensate for the stress of chronic inflammation, and may be one mechanism for the heightened neoplastic risk in UC.


Supported by NIH Grants RO1 CA6812-01 and CA64880-01, as well as by gifts from Alex Shulman, Wayne Quinton, and Julia Quinton to the University of Washington and by grants from the Johnson Family Foundation to the University of Michigan and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI.

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