BACKGROUND: Colorectal carcinoma (CRC) during the peri-partum period is challenging to diagnose due to the overlapping symptoms of CRC and pregnancy. This is the first case series to investigate clinicopathologic, hormononal, and molecular features of CRC diagnosed during the peri-partum period. We hypothesized that advanced presentations of CRC could possibly be mitigated by pregnancy-related hormonal factors.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective review of five women diagnosed with CRC during the peri-partum period and studied the clinical and molecular features of their cancer.
RESULTS: All patients presented with stage IV CRC at diagnosis; three had primary tumors in the rectum, and two had primary tumors in the sigmoid colon. The liver was the most common metastatic site (3 of 5 women). Immunohistochemistry stains were negative for estrogen receptors alpha (ERα) and beta (ERβ), and one tumor demonstrated low-level positivity for PR (1%). Formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) biopsies from each case were tested with next-generation sequencing and found that all tumors were mismatch repair (MMR) proficient, and three harbored a KRAS mutation. Germline testing showed no predisposition to CRC; however, several somatic variants of undetermined significance (VUS) were identified.
DISCUSSION: CRC in the peri-partum period poses significant risk factors for presentations with advanced disease due to diagnostic challenges. While our study provides no evidence that pathogenesis of CRC during pregnancy is driven by elevated estrogen and/or progesterone levels during pregnancy, additional putative etiologic factors, including placental growth factors, the immunosuppressive state of pregnancy, and other physiologic processes during pregnancy, warrant future study.