The average age at diagnosis for colorectal cancer in Australia is 69, and the age-specific incidence rises rapidly after age 50 years. The incidence has stabilised or is declining in older age groups in Australia during recent decades, possibly related to the increased uptake of screening and high-risk surveillance. In the same time frame, a rising incidence of colorectal cancer in younger adults has been well-documented in the United States. This rise in incidence in the young has not been reported from other countries which share long-term exposure to westernised urban lifestyles. Using data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, we examined trends in national incidence rates for colorectal cancer under age 50 years, and observed that rates in people under age 40 years have been rising for the last two decades. We further performed a review of the literature regarding colorectal cancer in young adults, to outline the extent of current understanding, explore potential risk factors such as obesity, alcohol and sedentary lifestyles, and to identify the questions remaining to be addressed. Though absolute numbers might not justify a population screening approach, the dispersal of young adults with colorectal cancer across the primary healthcare system decreases probability of their recognition. Patient and physician awareness, aided by stool and emerging blood screening tests and risk profiling tools, have the potential to aid in identification of those young adults who would most benefit from a colonoscopy through early detection of colorectal cancers or by removal of advanced polyps.
Mismatch repair-deficient breast cancers may be identified in Lynch syndrome mutation carriers, and have clinicopathological features in common with mismatch repair-deficient colorectal and endometrial cancers such as tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes and poor differentiation. Mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancers frequently show mucinous differentiation associated with upregulation of chromosome 11 mucins. The aim of this study was to compare the protein expression of these mucins in mismatch repair-deficient and -proficient breast cancers. Cases of breast cancer (n=100) were identified from families where (1) both breast and colon cancer co-occurred and (2) families met either modified Amsterdam criteria or had at least one early-onset (<50 years) colorectal cancer. Tumour sections were stained for the epithelial mucins, MUC2, MUC5AC, MUC5B and MUC6, and the homeobox protein CDX2, a regulator of MUC2 expression. In all, 16 mismatch repair-deficient Lynch syndrome breast cancers and 84 non-Lynch breast cancers were assessed for altered mucin expression. No significant difference in the expression of MUC2, MUC5AC or MUC6 was observed between the mismatch repair-deficient and mismatch repair-proficient breast cancers; however, there was a trend for mismatch repair-deficient tumours to express high levels of MUC5B less frequently (P=0.07, OR=0.2 (0.0-1.0)). Co-expression of two or more gel-forming mucins was common. Ectopic expression of CDX2 was associated with expression of MUC2 (P=0.035, OR=8.7 (1.3-58.4)). Mismatch repair-deficient breast cancers do not show differential expression of the mucins genes on chromosome 11 when compared with mismatch repair-proficient breast cancers, in contrast with mismatch repair-deficient colorectal and endometrial cancers, which frequently have increased mucin protein expression when compared with their mismatch repair-proficient counterparts. In addition, ectopic CDX2 expression is positively associated with de novo MUC2 expression.
Causative genetic variants have to date been identified for only a small proportion of familial colorectal cancer (CRC). While conditions such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Lynch syndrome have well defined genetic causes, the search for variants underlying the remainder of familial CRC is plagued by genetic heterogeneity. The recent identification of families with a heritable predisposition to malignancies arising through the serrated pathway (familial serrated neoplasia or Jass syndrome) provides an opportunity to study a subset of familial CRC in which heterogeneity may be greatly reduced. A genome-wide linkage screen was performed on a large family displaying a dominantly-inherited predisposition to serrated neoplasia genotyped using the Affymetrix GeneChip Human Mapping 10 K SNP Array. Parametric and nonparametric analyses were performed and resulting regions of interest, as well as previously reported CRC susceptibility loci at 3q22, 7q31 and 9q22, were followed up by finemapping in 10 serrated neoplasia families. Genome-wide linkage analysis revealed regions of interest at 2p25.2-p25.1, 2q24.3-q37.1 and 8p21.2-q12.1. Finemapping linkage and haplotype analyses identified 2q32.2-q33.3 as the region most likely to harbour linkage, with heterogeneity logarithm of the odds (HLOD) 2.09 and nonparametric linkage (NPL) score 2.36 (P = 0.004). Five primary candidate genes (CFLAR, CASP10, CASP8, FZD7 and BMPR2) were sequenced and no segregating variants identified. There was no evidence of linkage to previously reported loci on chromosomes 3, 7 and 9.
Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a dominantly inherited disorder present from birth that causes marked elevation in plasma cholesterol and premature coronary heart disease. There are at least 45,000 people with FH in Australia and New Zealand, but the vast majority remains undetected and those diagnosed with the condition are inadequately treated. To bridge this major gap in coronary prevention the FH Australasia Network (Australian Atherosclerosis Society) has developed a consensus model of care (MoC) for FH. The MoC is based on clinical experience, expert opinion, published evidence and consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders, and has been developed for use primarily by specialist centres intending starting a clinical service for FH. This MoC aims to provide a standardised, high-quality and cost-effective system of care that is likely to have the highest impact on patient outcomes. The MoC for FH is presented as a series of recommendations and algorithms focusing on the standards required for the detection, diagnosis, assessment and management of FH in adults and children. The process involved in cascade screening and risk notification, the backbone for detecting new cases of FH, is detailed. Guidance on treatment is based on risk stratifying patients, management of non-cholesterol risk factors, safe and effective use of statins, and a rational approach to follow-up of patients. Clinical and laboratory recommendations are given for genetic testing. An integrative system for providing best clinical care is described. This MoC for FH is not prescriptive and needs to be complemented by good clinical judgment and adjusted for local needs and resources. After initial implementation, the MoC will require critical evaluation, development and appropriate modification.
The responsibility for informing at-risk relatives of the availability of genetic testing for breast/ovarian cancer gene (BRCA1 or BRCA2) mutations currently falls on the probands. This study explored the support needs of individuals from families with identified BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations when communicating about genetic risk and genetic testing with at-risk family members. Thirty-nine semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with individuals from families with identified BRCA mutations. Interview responses were cross-tabulated by sample characteristics using the qualitative research analysis software NVivo8. The development of educational materials, which individuals could use when communicating the risks of carrying a BRCA gene mutation with their relatives, was identified as a specific need. Many participants expressed a preference for a staged approach, where relatives are notified of their increased risk and the availability of genetic testing risk either face-to-face or via a letter, with additional educational sources, including brief written information or access to a website, made available for those wishing to access more in-depth information. This research identified a need for the development of educational/informational resources to support individuals with identified breast/ovarian cancer mutations to communicate with their at-risk relatives about genetic risk and genetic testing availability.
We report the discovery of GATA2 as a new myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)-acute myeloid leukemia (AML) predisposition gene. We found the same, previously unidentified heterozygous c.1061C>T (p.Thr354Met) missense mutation in the GATA2 transcription factor gene segregating with the multigenerational transmission of MDS-AML in three families and a GATA2 c.1063_1065delACA (p.Thr355del) mutation at an adjacent codon in a fourth MDS family. The resulting alterations reside within the second zinc finger of GATA2, which mediates DNA-binding and protein-protein interactions. We show differential effects of the mutations on the transactivation of target genes, cellular differentiation, apoptosis and global gene expression. Identification of such predisposing genes to familial forms of MDS and AML is critical for more effective diagnosis and prognosis, counseling, selection of related bone marrow transplant donors and development of therapies.
Patients with multiple serrated polyps are at an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer (CRC). Recent reports have linked cigarette smoking with the subset of CRC that develops from serrated polyps. The aim of this work therefore was to investigate the association between smoking and the risk of CRC in high-risk genetics clinic patients presenting with multiple serrated polyps.
Hyperplastic polyposis is a colonic polyposis condition of unknown aetiology. The purpose of this study was to examine the spectrum of phenotypic variation in patients with multiple serrated polyps as a basis for gene discovery.
Germline mutations in MSH6 account for 10%-20% of Lynch syndrome colorectal cancers caused by hereditary DNA mismatch repair gene mutations. Because there have been only a few studies of mutation carriers, their cancer risks are uncertain.
Germline mutations that inactivate BRCA1 are responsible for breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility. One possible outcome of genetic testing for BRCA1 is the finding of a genetic variant of uncertain significance for which there is no information regarding its cancer association. This outcome leads to problems in risk assessment, counseling and preventive care. The purpose of the present study was to functionally evaluate seven unclassified variants of BRCA1 including a genomic deletion that leads to the in-frame loss of exons 16/17 (Delta exons 16/17) in the mRNA, an insertion that leads to a frameshift and an extended carboxy-terminus (5673insC), and five missense variants (K1487R, S1613C, M1652I, Q1826H and V1833M). We analyzed the variants using a functional assay based on the transcription activation property of BRCA1 combined with supervised learning computational models. Functional analysis indicated that variants S1613C, Q1826H, and M1652I are likely to be neutral, whereas variants V1833M, Delta exons 16/17, and 5673insC are likely to represent deleterious variants. In agreement with the functional analysis, the results of the computational analysis also indicated that the latter three variants are likely to be deleterious. Taken together, a combined approach of functional and bioinformatics analysis, plus structural modeling, can be utilized to obtain valuable information pertaining to the effect of a rare variant on the structure and function of BRCA1. Such information can, in turn, aid in the classification of BRCA1 variants for which there is a lack of genetic information needed to provide reliable risk assessment.
The identification of Lynch syndrome has been greatly assisted by the advent of tumour immunohistochemistry (IHC) for mismatch repair (MMR) proteins, and by the recognition of the role of acquired somatic BRAF mutation in sporadic MMR-deficient colorectal cancer (CRC). However, somatic BRAF mutation may also be present in the tumours in families with a predisposition to develop serrated polyps in the colorectum. In a subgroup of affected members in these families, CRCs emerge which demonstrate clear evidence of MMR deficiency with absent MLH1 staining and high-level microsatellite instability (MSI). This may result in these families being erroneously classified as Lynch syndrome, or conversely, an individual is considered "sporadic" due to the presence of a somatic BRAF mutation in a tumour. In this report, we describe two Lynch syndrome families who demonstrated several such inconsistencies. In one family, IHC deficiency of both MSH2 and MLH1 was demonstrated in tumours from different affected family members, presenting a confusing diagnostic picture. In the second family, MLH1 loss was observed in the lesions of both MLH1 mutation carriers and those who showed normal MLH1 germline sequence. Both families had Lynch syndrome complicated by an independently segregating serrated neoplasia phenotype, suggesting that in families such as these, tumour and germline studies of several key members, rather than of a single proband, are indicated to clarify the spectrum of risk.
The need for Locus-Specific Databases, with disease-specific experts and curators, is an essential ingredient in a process to enable the benefits of the advances in sequencing and mutational analysis to be realized across the genome. Next generation sequencing provides both astounding opportunities and challenges, especially for genetic counsellors. An approach coordinated at a genome wide, international level, supported by well-organized disease-specific respected organizations is a model most likely to be successful, but committed resourceful professionals working in local poorly resourced environments can make valuable contributions that can grow. Bioinformatic tools to sift and integrate multiple domains of information are being developed, and play a major part in meeting the challenges. Regulation of providers, including a requirement for them to submit mutational information to central databases, also should assist to reach the goals needed to realize the opportunities. There is also a need to agree on governance of Locus-Specific Databases (LSDBs) at an international level, and for adequate international funding to support this need, to ensure humanity reaps the benefits of the current molecular genetic revolution. The Human Variome Project offers this, working also with the other major initiatives with similar objectives. This report concludes with Recommendations for the Human Variome Project stemming from the presentations and discussions at the meeting.
Serrated polyposis (hyperplastic polyposis) is characterized by multiple polyps with serrated architecture in the colorectum. Although patients with serrated polyposis are known to be at increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) and possibly extracolonic cancers, cancer risk for their relatives has not been widely explored. The aim of this study was to estimate the risks of CRC and extracolonic cancers for relatives of patients with serrated polyposis.
Debate continues as to the usefulness of assessing adenomas for loss of mismatch repair protein expression to identify individuals with suspected Lynch syndrome. We tested 109 polyps from 69 proven mutation carriers (35 females and 34 males) belonging to 49 Lynch syndrome families. All polyps were tested by immunohistochemistry for four mismatch repair proteins MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and PMS2. Detailed pathology review was performed by specialist gastrointestinal pathologists. The majority of polyps (86%) were conventional adenomas (n=94), with 65 tubular and 28 tubulovillous adenomas and a single villous adenoma. The remaining 15 lesions (14%) were serrated polyps. Overall, loss of mismatch repair expression was noted for 78/109 (72%) of polyps. Loss of mismatch repair expression was seen in 74 of 94 (79%) conventional adenomas, and 4 of 15 (27%) serrated polyps from mismatch repair gene mutation carriers. In all instances, loss of expression was consistent with the underlying germline mutation. Mismatch repair protein expression was lost in 27 of 29 adenomas with a villous component compared with 47 of 65 adenomas without this feature (93 vs 73%; P=0.028). A strong trend was observed for high-grade dysplasia. Mismatch repair deficiency was observed in 12 of 12 conventional adenomas with high-grade dysplasia compared with 60 of 79 with low-grade dysplasia (100 vs 76%; P=0.065). We were unable to demonstrate a significant association between conventional adenoma size or site and mismatch repair deficiency. All (4/4 or 100%) of the serrated polyps demonstrating mismatch repair deficiency were traditional serrated adenomas from a single family. Diagnostic testing of adenomas in suspected Lynch syndrome families is a useful alternative in cases where cancers are unavailable. The overwhelming majority of conventional adenomas from mutation carriers show loss of mismatch repair protein expression concordant with the underlying germline mutation.
The most critical performance indicator for medical laboratories is the delivery of accurate test results. In any laboratory, there is always the possibility that random or systematic errors may occur and place human health and welfare at risk. Laboratory quality assurance programmes continue to drive improvements in analytical accuracy. The most rigorously scrutinised data on laboratory errors, which come from transfusion medicine, reveal that the incidence of analytical errors has fallen to levels where most of the residual risk is now found in preanalytical links in the chain from patient to result, particularly activities associated with ordering of tests and sample collection. This insight is important for genetic testing because, like pretransfusion testing of patients with unknown blood groups, a substantial proportion of genotyping results cannot be immediately verified. An increasing number of clinical decisions, associated personal and social choices, and legal outcomes are now influenced by genetic test results in the absence of other confirmatory data. An incorrect test result may lead to unnecessary and irreversible interventions, which may in themselves have associated risks for the patient, inaccurate risk assessment regarding the disease, missed opportunities for disease prevention or even wrongful conviction in a court of law. Unfortunately, there is limited information available about the risk of preanalytical errors associated with, and few published guidelines regarding, sample collection for genetic testing. The growing number and range of important decisions made on the basis of genetic findings warrant a reappraisal of current standards to minimise risks in genetic testing.
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