Lynch syndrome is caused by germline mutations in mismatch repair genes (MSH2, MLH1, MSH6 or PMS2), which lead to a high risk of predominantly colorectal and endometrial cancer. Recently, we found that also constitutional 3′ end deletions of EPCAM can cause Lynch syndrome through epigenetic silencing of MSH2 in EPCAM expressing tissues. This results in a tissue specific MSH2-deficiency, which may evoke a different cancer risk and spectrum. To optimize the care for EPCAM deletion carriers we studied their cancer risk and spectrum.
Clinical data of 194 carriers from 41 EPCAM families were systematically collected and compared to those of 431 carriers from 91 families with mutations in MLH1, MSH2, or MSH6.
EPCAM deletion carriers exhibited a 75% [95%CI 65–85%] cumulative risk of colorectal cancer before the age of 70 years, with a mean age at diagnosis of 43 years, which is comparable to that of carriers of a combined EPCAM-MSH2 deletion (69% [95%CI 47-91%], p=0·8609) or of a mutation in MSH2 (77% [95%CI 64-90%], p=0·5892) or MLH1 (79% [95%CI 68-90%], p=0·5492) and higher than that of MSH6 mutation carriers (50% [95%CI 38-62%], p<0·0001). In contrast, women with EPCAM deletions (n=87) exhibited a 12% [95%CI 0-27%] cumulative risk of endometrial cancer, which is significantly lower than in carriers of a combined EPCAM-MSH2 deletion (55% [95%CI 20-90%], p<0·0001) or of a mutation in MSH2 (51% [95%CI 33-69%], p=0·0006) or MSH6 (34% [95%CI 20-48%], p=0·0309) and lower than in MLH1 (33% [95%CI 15-51%] p=0·1193) mutation carriers. This risk seems to be restricted to large deletions that extend close to the MSH2 gene promoter. Overall, a relatively high incidence of duodenal (n=3) and pancreatic (n=4) cancers was observed.
EPCAM deletion carriers do have a high risk of colorectal cancer. Only those with deletions extending close to the MSH2 promoter have an increased risk of endometrial cancer. These results underscore the impact of mosaic MSH2-deficiency on cancer risk and are indicative for a protocol revision for surveillance and preventive surgery in EPCAM deletion carriers.