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Cancer Res. 1999 Oct 15;59(20):5148-53.

Pancolonic chromosomal instability precedes dysplasia and cancer in ulcerative colitis.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA. petersr@u.washington.edu


Patients with long-standing ulcerative colitis (UC) are at increased risk for colon cancer. These cancers are thought to arise from preexisting dysplasia in a field of abnormal cells that often exhibits aneuploidy and p53 abnormalities. Using dual color fluorescence in situ hybridization with centromere probes and locus-specific arm probes for chromosomes 8, 11, 17, and 18, we demonstrate that chromosomal instability (CIN) is present throughout the colon of UC patients with high-grade dysplasia or cancer. In rectal biopsies that were negative for dysplasia, abnormalities in chromosomal arms, especially losses, were most common, whereas centromere gains were most common in dysplasia and cancer. The frequency and type of abnormalities varied between the chromosomes examined; chromosome 8 was the least affected, and 17p loss was found to be an early and frequent event. Chromosomal arm instability showed 100% sensitivity and specificity for distinguishing control biopsies from histologically negative rectal biopsies from these UC patients, raising the possibility that a screen for CIN might detect the subset of UC patients who are at greatest risk for development of dysplasia and cancer. These results suggest that dysplasia and cancer in UC arise from a process of CIN that affects the entire colon; this may provide the mutator phenotype that predisposes to loss of tumor suppressor genes and evolution of cancer.

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