Microsatellite instability (MSI) in colorectal cancer (CRC) is a marker of immunogenicity and is associated with an increased abundance of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). In this subgroup of colorectal cancer, it is unknown if these characteristics translate into a measurable difference in circulating tumour cell (CTC) release into peripheral circulation. This is the first study to compare MSI status with the prevalence of circulating CTCs in the peri-operative colorectal surgery setting. For this purpose, 20 patients who underwent CRC surgery with curative intent were enrolled in the study, and peripheral venous blood was collected at pre- (t1), intra- (t2), immediately post-operative (t3), and 14–16 h post-operative (t4) time points. Of these, one patient was excluded due to insufficient blood sample. CTCs were isolated from 19 patients using the IsofluxTM system, and the data were analysed using the STATA statistical package. CTC number was presented as the mean values, and comparisons were made using the Student t-test. There was a trend toward increased CTC presence in the MSI-high (H) CRC group, but this was not statistically significant. In addition, a Poisson regression was performed adjusting for stage (I-IV). This demonstrated no significant difference between the two MSI groups for pre-operative time point t1. However, time points t2, t3, and t4 were associated with increased CTC presence for MSI-H CRCs. In conclusion, there was a trend toward increased CTC release pre-, intra-, and post-operatively in MSI-H CRCs, but this was only statistically significant intra-operatively. When adjusting for stage, MSI-H was associated with an increase in CTC numbers intra-operatively and post-operatively, but not pre-operatively.
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