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Although colon cancer (CC) with microsatellite instability (MSI) has a more favorable prognosis than microsatellite stable (MSS) CC, the impact varies according to clinicopathological parameters. We studied how MSI status affects prognosis in a trial-based cohort of stage II and III CC patients treated with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)/leucovorin or FOLFIRI.Tissue specimens of 1254 patients were tested for 10 different loci and were classified as MSI-high (MSI-H) when three or more loci were unstable and MSS otherwise. Study end points were overall survival (OS) and relapse-free survival (RFS).In stage II, RFS and OS were better for patients with MSI-H than with MSS CC [hazard ratio (HR) 0.26, 95% CI 0.10–0.65, P = 0.004 and 0.16, 95% CI 0.04–0.64, P = 0.01). In stage III, RFS was slightly better for patients with MSI-H CC (HR 0.67, 95% CI 0.46–0.99, P = 0.04), but the difference was not statistically significant for OS (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.44–1.09, P = 0.11). Outcomes for patients with MSI-H CC were not different between the two treatment arms. RFS was better for patients with MSI-H than with MSS CC in the right and left colon, whereas for OS this was significant only in the right colon. For patients with KRAS- and BRAF-mutated CC, but not for double wild-type patients, RFS and OS were significantly better when the tumors were also MSI-H. An interaction test was statistically significant for KRAS and MSI status (P = 0.005), but not for BRAF status (P = 0.14).Our results confirm that for patients with stage II CC but less so for those with stage III MSI-H is strongly prognostic for RFS and OS. In the presence of 5-FU treatment, stage II patients with MSI-H tumors maintain their survival advantage in comparison with MSS patients and adding irinotecan has no added benefit.NCT00026273.