Surprising Genetic Mutations in Polyposis Study

A recent cross-sectional study (PP Stanich et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 2008-15, editorial 1942-44) identified a high frequency of genetic mutations among adults with at least 10 colonic polyps (cumulative burden of either adenomatous or hamartomatous).

This study had 3789 subjects who underwent multigene panel testing (MGPT) from 2012-16.

  • All subjects had at least 14 CRC-associated genes tested: APC, BMPR1A, CDH1, CHEK2, EPCAM, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, MUTYH, PMS2, PTEN, SMAD4, STK11, TP53
  • A subset had 3 more newly recognized polyposis genes: GREM1, POLD1, and POLE

Key findings:

  • A mutation in at least 1 gene was found in 13.7%
  • In those with fewer than 20 cumulative adenomas, 7.6% had a disease-associated genetic mutation with the majority (5.3%) being nonpolyposis CRC genes
  • Younger patients, 18-29, were more likely to have mutations in any gene.  For example, among patients with 10-19 polyps, these younger patients had a mutation in one of these genes in 27.8%; this is more than double the rate in any other age group.
  • Hamartomatous polyps, regardless of number, had a very high yield with genetic testing: 40% with 10-19 polyps and 72% with 20-99 polyps.


  • There is a referral bias in that the population was derived from a testing laboratory (Ambry)
  • In clinical practice, genetic testing frequently results in variants of unknown significance

My take: This study shows that genetic mutations are fairly frequent in patients with cumulative polyp burden of 10 or more, especially in younger age groups.  The surprising finding is the high frequency of nonpolyposis CRC genes.  Thus, in patients with adenomatous polyposis, testing beyond APC and MUTYH may be needed.

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