Review| Volume 132, ISSUE 2, P506-512, February 2014

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Mismatch repair deficiency in ovarian cancer — Molecular characteristics and clinical implications

  • Xue Xiao
    University of Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road South, Edinburgh, UK
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  • David W. Melton
    University of Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road South, Edinburgh, UK
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  • Charlie Gourley
    Corresponding author at: University of Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Crewe Road South, Edinburgh, UK. Fax: +44 1317773520.
    University of Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road South, Edinburgh, UK
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Published:December 30, 2013DOI:


      • Both mutational and expression data suggest that MMR deficiency is more common in non-serous ovarian cancer than in serous subtypes.
      • The effect of MMR deficiency on ovarian cancer chemosensitivity remains unproven but synthetic lethal approaches offer hope of novel therapies.


      DNA mismatch repair (MMR) deficiency is associated with increased risk of developing several types of cancer and is the most common cause of hereditary ovarian cancer after BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. While there has been extensive investigation of MMR deficiency in colorectal cancer, MMR in ovarian cancer is relatively under-investigated. This review summarizes the mechanism of MMR, the ways in which MMR deficiency can promote carcinogenesis in general and then assesses the available studies regarding MMR deficiency in ovarian cancers with specific emphasis on implications for disease incidence and therapy. The incidence of germline MMR gene mutations in ovarian cancer is only 2% but other mechanisms of gene inactivation mean that loss of expression of one of the seven main genes (MSH2, MSH3, MSH6, MLH1, MLH3, PMS1 and PMS2) occurs in up to 29% of cases. Both mutational and expression data suggest that MMR deficiency is more common in non-serous ovarian cancer. Some studies suggest an improved survival for patients with MMR deficiency compared to historical controls but these do not account for the preponderance of non-serous tumors. A number of in vitro studies have suggested that MMR deficiency is a cause of platinum resistance. To date this has not been categorically demonstrated in the clinic. Larger studies that account for stage of presentation and immunohistochemical subtype are required to assess the effect of MMR deficiency on survival and chemosensitivity. Investigation of MMR related synthetic lethality in colorectal cancer has identified dihydrofolate reductase, DNA polymerase β and DNA polymerase γ and PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 as synthetic lethal to certain MMR defects by causing accumulation of oxidative DNA damage. These synthetic lethal targets require tested and others should be sought within the context of MMR deficient ovarian cancer in an attempt to provide novel therapeutic strategies for these patients.


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