Accuracy of MSI testing in predicting germline mutations of MSH2 and MLH1: A case study in Bayesian meta-analysis of diagnostic tests without a gold standard

Sining Chen, Patrice Watson, Giovanni Parmigiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Microsatellite instability (MSI) testing is a common screening procedure used to identify families that may harbor mutations of a mismatch repair (MMR) gene and therefore may be at high risk for hereditary colorectal cancer. A reliable estimate of sensitivity and specificity of MSI for detecting germline mutations of MMR genes is critical in genetic counseling and colorectal cancer prevention. Several studies published results of both MSI and mutation analysis on the same subjects. In this article we perform a meta-analysis of these studies and obtain estimates that can be directly used in counseling and screening. In particular, we estimate the sensitivity of MSI for detecting mutations of MSH2 and MLH1 to be 0.81 (0.73-0.89). Statistically, challenges arise from the following: (a) traditional mutation analysis methods used in these studies cannot be considered a gold standard for the identification of mutations; (b) studies are heterogeneous in both the design and the populations considered; and (c) studies may include different patterns of missing data resulting from partial testing of the populations sampled. We address these challenges in the context of a Bayesian meta-analytic implementation of the Hui-Walter design, tailored to account for various forms of incomplete data. Posterior inference is handled via a Gibbs sampler.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-464
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005



  • Diagnostic test
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer
  • Microsatellite instability
  • Sensitivity
  • Specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty

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