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Cancer Res. 2007 Feb 15;67(4):1415-8.

Younger age of cancer initiation is associated with shorter telomere length in Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

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  • 1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada.


Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is a cancer predisposition syndrome frequently associated with germ line TP53 mutations. Unpredictable and disparate age of cancer onset is a major challenge in the management of LFS. Genetic modifiers, including the MDM2-SNP309 polymorphism, and genetic anticipation have been suggested as plausible explanations for young age of tumor onset, but the molecular mechanisms for these observations are unknown. We speculated that telomere attrition will increase genomic instability and cause earlier tumor onset in successive generations. We analyzed mean telomere length and MDM2-SNP309 polymorphism status in individuals from multiple LFS families and controls. A total of 45 peripheral blood lymphocyte samples were analyzed from 9 LFS families and 15 controls. High rate of MDM2-SNP309 was found in TP53 carriers (P = 0.0003). In children, telomere length was shorter in carriers affected with cancer than in nonaffected carriers and wild-type controls (P < 0.0001). The same pattern was seen in adults (P = 0.002). Within each family, telomere length was shorter in children with cancer than in their nonaffected siblings and their noncarrier parents. Telomere attrition between children and adults was faster in carriers than in controls. Our results support the role of MDM2-SNP309 as a genetic modifier in LFS. The novel finding of accelerated telomere attrition in LFS suggests that telomere length could explain earlier age of onset in successive generations of the same family with identical TP53/MDM2-SNP309 genotypes. Furthermore, telomere shortening could predict genetic anticipation observed in LFS and may serve as the first rational biological marker for clinical monitoring of these patients.

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