NTRK gene rearrangements are highly enriched in MLH1/PMS2 deficient, BRAF wild-type colorectal carcinomas—a study of 4569 cases

Angela Chou, Tamara Fraser, Mahsa Ahadi, Talia Fuchs, Loretta Sioson, Adele Clarkson, Amy Sheen, Nisha Singh, Christopher L. Corless, Anthony J. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


NTRK gene rearrangements are important to identify as predictors of response to targeted therapy in many malignancies. Only 0.16–0.3% of colorectal carcinomas (CRCs) harbor these fusions making universal screening difficult. We therefore investigated whether pan-Trk immunohistochemistry (IHC), mismatch repair deficiency (MMRd), and BRAFV600E mutation status could be used to triage molecular testing for NTRK gene rearrangements in CRC. CRCs from 4569 unselected patients underwent IHC in TMA format with two different anti-pan-Trk rabbit monoclonal antibodies. All positive cases were confirmed on whole sections and underwent RNA-sequencing. Pan-Trk IHC was positive in 0.2% of CRCs (9/4569). Both antibodies demonstrated similar staining characteristics with diffuse positive staining in all neoplastic cells. Of note 8/9 (89%) IHC positive cases were both MMRd (all showing MLH1/PMS2 loss) and lacked BRAFV600E mutation. That is, IHC was positive in 5.3% (8/152) MLH1/PMS2/BRAFV600E triple negative CRCs, but only 0.02% (1/4417) not showing this phenotype. All nine IHC positive CRCs demonstrated gene rearrangements (LMNA-NTRK1 in 5 CRCs, TPR-NTRK1, STRM-NTRK1, MUC2-NTRK2, and NTRK1 with an unknown partner in one each), suggesting close to 100% specificity for IHC in this sub-population. NTRK fusions were associated with right sided (p = 0.02), larger tumors (p = 0.029) with infiltrative growth (p = 0.021). As a part of universal Lynch syndrome screening many institutions routinely test all CRCs for MMRd, and then proceed to reflex BRAFV600E mutation testing in MLH1/PMS2 negative CRCs. We conclude that performing pan-Trk IHC on this preselected subgroup of MLH1/PMS2/BRAFV600E triple negative CRCs (only 3.3% of all CRC patients) is a resource effective approach to identify the overwhelming majority of CRC patients with NTRK gene fusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)924-932
Number of pages9
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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