Abstract Chromosomal instability (CIN) is a hallmark of distinct subclasses of tumours with potential clinical relevance. The aim of our study was to establish a time and cost effective method for the determination of CIN in gastric carcinomas (GC). We developed a microsatellite based multiplex PCR assay for the detection of allelic imbalances (AI) using experimentally defined marker specific threshold values for AI. The assay was tested in 90 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded GC and results were compared in a subset of 30 carcinomas with the Affymetrix OncoScan assay, which detects copy number variations on genome wide level. The ratios of alterations detected by the two methods demonstrated a significant correlation (r = 0.88). Based on the results of the OncoScan assay, tumours were classified in CIN-High and CIN-Low and a threshold of the AI ratio determined with the PCR assay was defined. Accordingly, 20 of the 90 GC (22%) were CIN-Low and 70 (78%) CIN-High. A significant association of CIN-High was found with intestinal type tumours and proximal tumour localization. In conclusion, we established a PCR based method to categorize AI as surrogate for CIN, which is easy to perform and useful for the clarification of the clinical relevance of CIN in large GC cohorts.
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