Colorectal tumor DNA was examined for somatic instability at (CA) n repeats on human chromosomes 5q, 15q, 17p, and 18q. Differences between tumor and normal DNA were detected in 25 of the 90 (28 percent) tumors examined. This instability appeared as either a substantial change in repeat length (often heterogeneous in nature) or a minor change (typically two base pairs). Microsatellite instability was significantly correlated with the tumor's location in the proximal colon (P = 0.003), with increased patient survival (P = 0.02), and, inversely, with loss of heterozygosity for chromosomes 5q, 17p, and 18q. These data suggest that some colorectal cancers may arise through a mechanism that does not necessarily involve loss of heterozygosity.
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