Information for Health Professionals, Polyposis

Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)


Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

Multiple polyp patients are a clinically heterogeneous group. Classical familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP; OMIM 175100) is caused by a germline mutation of the APC gene (at the locus 5q22-21) which activates the Wnt pathway (Bodmer et al. 1987; Groden et al. 1991; Clevers 2006). APC is also somatically mutated in approximately 70% of sporadic colorectal cancer.  However these cases are not caused by inherited mutations in the gene.

Polyposis (carpeting the rectum 20 years following a previous ileorectal anastamosis)

FAP is characterised by over a hundred colonic adenomas, and a high penetrance of colorectal cancer with an average age of cancer presentation of 39 years. There are also extra-colonic manifestations including intra-abdominal desmoids, duodenal adenomas and congenital hypertrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium(CHRPE).

In classical FAP, the risk of developing colorectal cancer exceeds 90% by age 70 years without prophylactic surgery.  The risk of gastroduodenal cancer is about 7%.  Around 25% of all cases are due to new mutations in the APC gene and so there is no previous family history. Nonetheless, children of individuals with a new mutation are at 50% risk of inheriting the condition.

The population prevalence of FAP is estimated at 1:14 000.  Owing to highly effective surgical prophylaxis, FAP accounts for only 0.07% of incident colorectal cancers in modern practice.  As registries and genetic services improve detection of at-risk family members, the proportion of colorectal cancer cases due to FAP should reduce, limited only by the proportion due to new mutations, which account for 25% of cases.

In attenuated FAP (AFAP) there is a later age of onset of colorectal cancer with a lower penetrance. The polyps number 10-100 in affected individuals. This arbitrary distinction is based on clinical characteristics, merely representing different ends of the same phenotypic spectrum of FAP. Germline mutations in APC account for up to 15% of patients with 5–100 adenomas and can be categorised AFAP.

English: CHRPE - congenital hypertrophy of the...

English: CHRPE – congenital hypertrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: CHRPE – congenital hypertrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somatic mutations in the APC gene

With regard to APC mutations, the most important functional domains of the APC gene appear to be the first serine alanine methionine proline (SAMP) (axin binding) repeat at codon 1580(Smits et al. 1999) and the first, second and third 20-amino acid repeats (20AARs) involved in ß-catenin binding and degradation. The great majority of pathogenic APC mutations truncate the protein before the first SAMP repeat and leave a stable, truncated protein that encodes 0-3 20AARs.

The ‘just-right’ model. The figure shows the multiple domains of the APC protein and the correlation between the position of the germline mutation and that of the somatic mutation. (a) Germline mutations between the first and the second 20AAR are associated with LOH. (b) Germline mutations before the first 20AAR are associated with somatic mutations between the second and third 20AAR. (c) Germline mutations after the second 20AAR are associated with somatic mutations before the first 20AAR(Segditsas and Tomlinson 2006).

APC is a classic tumour suppressor gene, requiring two hits for inactivation (Knudson 1971). In colorectal tumours from FAP patients, the germline wild-type allele either undergoes loss of heterozygosity (LOH) or acquires a protein-truncating mutation. Most somatic mutations occur in a restricted region of the gene, the mutation cluster region (MCR) (Miyoshi, Nagase et al. 1992). The reason for the MCR and relatively low frequency of LOH at APC was discovered from studies of FAP (Lamlum et al. 1999). It was found that LOH is strongly associated with germline mutations between the first and second 20AAR (codons 1285-1379). Germline mutations before codon 1280 are associated with somatic mutations between the second and third 20AAR (codons 1400 and 1495); and germline mutations after codon 1400 are associated with somatic mutations before codon 1280 (Lamlum, Ilyas et al. 1999; Albuquerque et al. 2002; Crabtree et al. 2003), Most tumours end up with APC alleles that encode a total of two 20AARs(Figure 1‑4). Similar associations exist for sporadic colorectal cancers. This association has been proposed to cause an optimal level of Wnt signalling/ß-catenin activation (Lamlum, Ilyas et al. 1999; Albuquerque, Breukel et al. 2002). Whatever the case, it is clear that selective constraints act on colorectal tumours such that some combinations of APC mutations provide a superior growth advantage for the tumour cell. This is known as the ‘just right’ hypothesis.

Germline APC mutation and phenotype

There is a genotype-phenotype relationship determined by the precise location of the APC mutation. AFAP is associated with germline mutations in three regions of APC: 5’ (codon 1580); and the alternatively spliced region of exon 9 (Knudsen et al. 2003). Mutations close to codon 1300 are the most commonly found and are associated with a severe phenotype, typically producing over 2000 polyps and earlier-onset colorectal cancer (Nugent et al. 1994; Debinski et al. 1996). De novo mutations of APC occur in approximately 20% of FAP. In a small study de novo mutations of APC were found to be more commonly of paternal origin (Aretz 2004).

Somatic mutations in the Wnt signalling pathway in genes other than APC

Figure 1. Wnt doesn't bind to the receptor. Ax...

Figure 1. Wnt doesn’t bind to the receptor. Axin, GSK and APC form a “destruction complex,” and β-Cat is destroyed. Compare to Figure 2. See the article main text for details. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Figure 1. Wnt doesn’t bind to the receptor. Axin, GSK and APC form a “destruction complex,” and β-Cat is destroyed. Compare to Figure 2. See the article main text for details. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wnt signalling pathway is activated in approximately 75% of colorectal cancer, and is one of the key signalling pathways in cancer, regulating cell growth, motility and differentiation. APC binds to the ß-catenin protein which functions in cell adhesion andas a downstream transcriptional activator in the Wnt signallingpathway (Wong and Pignatelli 2002). Somatic mutations in ß-CATENIN usually delete the whole of exon 3 or target individual serine or threonine residues encoded by this exon (Ilyas et al. 1997; Morin et al.). These residues are phosphorylated by the degradation complex that contains APC, and hence their mutation causes ß-catenin to escape from proteosomal degradation. These mutations are particularly associated with HNPCC tumours (but not sporadic MSI tumours) (Johnson et al. 2005). However, less than 5% of all sporadic colorectal cancer has mutation in ß-CATENIN. In addition somatic mutations have been reported in AXIN1 (Webster et al. 2000) and AXIN2 (Suraweera et al. 2006), the importance of which is uncertain.
Screening and Managment of FAP

Establishment of FAP registries

Families with FAP should be referred to the regional clinical genetics service or other specialist service that can facilitate risk assessment, genetic testing and screening of family members. Some regional services have specific FAP registers that facilitate regular follow-up. FAP registries have been shown to improve outcomes by systematic and structured delivery of management, monitoring interventions and surveillance, as well as serving as a focus for audit.

Large bowel surveillance for FAP family members Annual flexible sigmoidoscopy and alternating colonoscopy should be offered to mutation carriers from diagnosis until polyp load indicates a need for surgery.198 In a small minority of families where no mutation can be identified and genetic linkage analysis is not possible, family members at 50% risk should have annual surveillance from age 13e15 until age 30 years, and every 35 years thereafter until age 60. Surveillance might also be offered as a temporary measure for people with documented APC gene mutations and a significant polyp load but who wish to defer prophylactic surgery for personal reasons. Such individuals should be offered 6-monthly flexible sigmoidoscopy and annual colonoscopy. As in Lynch syndrome, chromoendoscopy or narrow band endoscopy may have a place in surveillance for attenuated FAP, but the utility of these techniques merits further appraisal and must not replace conventional endoscopic approaches. Surgery can be deferred if careful follow-up is instigated and the patient is fully aware of the risks of cancer. This is especially the case for attenuated FAP but can also be useful in the management of classical FAP for individuals who have a low polyp burden in terms of size, multiplicity and degree of dysplasia. The cancer risk increases substantially after 25 years, and so surgery should be undertaken before then unless polyps are sparse and there is no high-grade dysplasia. If colectomy and ileorectal anastomosis are performed, the rectum must be kept under review annually for life because the risk of cancer in the retained rectum is 1229%.The anorectal cuff after restorative proctocolectomy should also be kept under annual review for life.

Prophylactic colorectal surgery

Patients with typical FAP should be advised to undergo prophylactic surgery between the ages of 16 and 25 years, but the exact timing of surgery should be guided by polyp numbers, size and dysplasia and fully informed patient choice influenced by educational and child-bearing issues. Surgical options include proctocolectomy and ileoanal pouch or a colectomy with ileorectal anastomosis.

People with proven FAP require prophylactic surgery to remove the majority of at-risk large bowel epithelium. Colectomy and ileorectal anastomosis is associated with a 1229% risk of cancer in the retained rectum, whereas restorative proctocolectomy is associated with a very low risk of cancer in the pouch or in the retained mucosa at anorectum. Ileoanal pouch construction may be associated with impaired fertility.  It is clear that case identification and prophylactic surgery have markedly improved survival in FAP.

Upper gastrointestinal surveillance in FAP

Because of the substantial risk of upper gastrointestinal malignancy in FAP, surveillance of this tract is recommended. While gastroduodenal polyposis is well recognised in FAP and surveillance practice is established practice in the overall management, there is limited evidence on which to gauge the potential benefit of surveillance. However, the approach seems reasonable, and 3-yearly upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is recommended from age 30 years with the aim of detecting early curable cancers. Patients with large numbers of duodenal polyps should undergo annual surveillance.

Gastroduodenal and periampullary malignancies account for a small, but appreciable, number of deaths in patients with FAP. Duodenal polyposis occurs in approximately 90% of FAP patients and the overall lifetime risk of periampullary cancer is 35%.Advancing age and mutation location within the APC gene appear to have an effect on duodenal carcinoma risk.  Almost all FAP patients have some abnormality on inspection and biopsy of the duodenum by age 40.  The degree of duodenal polyposis can be assessed using an endoscopic/histological scoring system (Spigelman classification143), which can be helpful in predicting the risk of duodenal cancer. The worst stage (IV) has a 10-year risk of 36% and stage 0 negligible risk.207 Hence, it seems reasonable to offer 3-yearly upper gastrointestinal surveillance from age 30 years and more frequently if there is extensive polyposis. However, it should be noted that the effectiveness of this intervention in reducing mortality is unknown, especially since duodenal polypectomy is unsatisfactory208 and prophylactic duodenectomy is a major undertaking with substantial attendant morbidity and mortality.


About kjmonahan

Service lead for Family History of Bowel Cancer Clinic


7 thoughts on “Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

  1. […]Here is a great Blog You may Find Interesting that we Encourage You[…]

    Posted by diet for low cholesterol | December 13, 2012, 8:58 am
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)” I have now being living with an eliorectul pouch for the past 11 years BEFORE THIS i HAD A PARTIAL COLON colostomy which held me for 25 years before the polyps became cancerous. I have never looked back I am now nearing my 62 year on this planet and appreciate everything the medical services have done for me

      Posted by sam craig | July 18, 2014, 11:52 pm


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