Genetic Analysis of Archived Tumor Specimens for Hereditary Colorectal Cancer Syndromes in the Cajuns of Louisiana, a US Founder Population

Jordan J. Karlitz, Tulane University School of Medicine
Amanda Phillips, LSU Health Sciences Center- New Orleans
Kelly S. Sorrells, LSU Health Sciences Center- New Orleans
Shanti Rao, Tulane University School of Medicine


INTRODUCTION: The Louisiana Acadian region (population 1.2 million), home of the Cajuns, has among the highest US colorectal cancer (CRC) rates. Although Cajuns are a known genetic founder population, studies assessing for hereditary CRC have not been performed. METHODS: A retrospective review of 2 hospital cancer registries was performed to identify young (<55) Cajun CRC patients in Lafayette, Louisiana (the Acadian region population center), diagnosed from 2003 to 2016. Men were studied because of the higher likelihoods of retaining Cajun surnames for ancestry identification compared with women. Immunohistochemistry for mismatch repair proteins associated with the Lynch syndrome (LS) was performed on tumors. Germline sequencing was performed on adjacent normal tissue of these archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded surgical resection specimens for pathogenic variants underlying CRC-associated syndromes, including LS, familial adenomatous polyposis, and others. RESULTS: Of 9 young Cajuns, a germline analysis revealed LS in 2 (MLH1 frameshift, MLH1 missense pathogenic variants). Both had immunohistochemistry-deficient MLH1. Two others had the same adenomatous polyposis coli variant of unknown significance (2 algorithms predicting deleterious and probably damaging change), making this a potential familial adenomatous polyposis founder effect candidate. DISCUSSION: This is the first study assessing for hereditary CRC in a large US regional founder population. This small study did not identify clear Cajun founder pathogenic variants. However, larger studies are warranted, which could also help clarify the clinical significance of the adenomatous polyposis coli variant of unknown significance. This study is important because it demonstrates that a retrospective tumor analysis can be used to ascertain the prevalence of genetic susceptibility in specific populations.