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Associations of beta-catenin alterations and MSI screening status with expression of key cell cycle regulating proteins and survival from colorectal cancer

Sakarias Wangefjord1*, Jenny Brändstedt1, Kajsa Ericson Lindquist1, Björn Nodin1, Karin Jirström1 and Jakob Eberhard12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Pathology, Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, Lund, 221 85, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Oncology, Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, Lund, 221 85, Sweden

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Diagnostic Pathology 2013, 8:10  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-8-10

Published: 21 January 2013



Despite their pivotal roles in colorectal carcinogenesis, the interrelationship and prognostic significance of beta-catenin alterations and microsatellite instability (MSI) in colorectal cancer (CRC) needs to be further clarified. In this paper, we studied the associations between beta-catenin overexpression and MSI status with survival from CRC, and with expression of p21, p27, cyclin D1 and p53, in a large, prospective cohort study.


Immunohistochemical MSI-screening status and expression of p21, p27 and p53 was assessed in tissue microarrays with tumours from 557 cases of incident CRC in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study. Chi Square and Spearman’s correlation tests were used to explore the associations between beta-catenin expression, MSI status, clinicopathological characteristics and investigative parameters. Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards modelling were used to assess the relationship between beta-catenin overexpression, MSI status and cancer specific survival (CSS).


Positive MSI screening status was significantly associated with older age, female sex, proximal tumour location, non-metastatic disease, and poor differentiation, and inversely associated with beta-catenin overexpression. Beta-catenin overexpression was significantly associated with distal tumour location, low T-stage and well-differentiated tumours. Patients with MSI tumours had a significantly prolonged CSS in the whole cohort, and in stage III-IV disease, also in multivariable analysis, but not in stage I-II disease. Beta-catenin overexpression was associated with a favourable prognosis in the full cohort and in patients with stage III-IV disease. Neither MSI nor beta-catenin status were predictive for response to adjuvant chemotherapy in curatively treated stage III patients. P53 and p27 expression was positively associated with beta-catenin overexpression and inversely associated with MSI. Cyclin D1 expression was positively associated with MSI and beta-catenin overexpression, and p21 expression was positively associated with MSI but not beta-catenin overexpression.


Findings from this large, prospective cohort study demonstrate that MSI screening status in colorectal cancer is an independent prognostic factor, but not in localized disease, and does not predict response to adjuvant chemotherapy. Beta-catenin overexpression was also associated with favourable outcome but not a treatment predictive factor. Associations of MSI and beta-catenin alterations with other investigative and clinicopathological factors were in line with the expected.

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