Elevated microsatellite instability at selected tetranucleotide (EMAST) repeats in gastric cancer: a distinct microsatellite instability type with potential clinical impact?

Herz, A.L., Wisser, S., Kohlruss, M., Slotta-Huspenina, J., Jesinghaus, M., Grosser, B., Steiger, K., Novotny, A., Hapfelmeier, A., Schmidt, T., Gaida, M.M., Weichert, W., Keller, G. (2022). J Pathol Clin Res.



We investigated the clinical impact of elevated microsatellite instability at selected tetranucleotide (EMAST) repeats in the context of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (CTx) in gastric/gastro-oesophageal adenocarcinomas. We analysed 583 resected tumours (272 without and 311 after CTx) and 142 tumour biopsies before CTx. If at least two or three of the five tetranucleotide repeat markers tested showed instability, the tumours were defined as EMAST (2+) or EMAST (3+), respectively. Expression of mismatch repair proteins including MSH3 was analysed using immunohistochemistry. Microsatellite instability (MSI) and Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) positivity were determined using standard assays. EMAST (2+) and (3+) were detected in 17.8 and 11.5% of the tumours, respectively. The frequency of EMAST (2+) or (3+) in MSI-high (MSI-H) tumours was 96.2 or 92.5%, respectively, demonstrating a high overlap with this molecular subtype, and the association of EMAST and MSI status was significant (each overall p < 0.001). EMAST (2+ or 3+) alone in MSI-H and EBV-negative tumours demonstrated only a statistically significant association of EMAST (2+) positivity and negative lymph node status (42.3% in EMAST (2+) and 28.8% in EMAST negative, p = 0.045). EMAST alone by neither definition was significantly associated with overall survival (OS) of the patients. The median OS for EMAST (2+) patients was 40.0 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 16.4–63.6) compared with 38.7 months (95% CI 26.3–51.1) for the EMAST-negative group (p = 0.880). The median OS for EMAST (3+) patients was 46.7 months (95% CI 18.2–75.2) and 38.7 months (95% CI 26.2–51.2) for the negative group (p = 0.879). No statistically significant association with response to neoadjuvant CTx was observed (p = 0.992 and p = 0.433 for EMAST (2+) and (3+), respectively). In conclusion, our results demonstrate a nearly complete intersection between MSI-H and EMAST and they indicate that EMAST alone is not a distinct instability type associated with noticeable clinico-pathological characteristics of gastric carcinoma patients.