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Cancer Res. 2008 Mar 1;68(5):1417-26. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-3021.

Clonal selection in malignant transformation of human fibroblasts transduced with defined cellular oncogenes.

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  • 1Department of Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Recent evidence has implied that disruption of a limited number of defined cellular pathways is necessary and sufficient for neoplastic conversion of a variety of normal human cell types in tissue culture. We show instead that malignancy in such models results from an iterative process of clonal selection in vitro and/or in vivo. Normal human fibroblasts underwent malignant transformation after transduction with telomerase, cyclin-dependent kinase 4, dominant-negative p53, and activated Ras or MEK. Furthermore, culture conditions favoring overgrowth resulted in clonal selection, which with added Ras or MEK oncogenes led to the emergence of tumorigenic clones. Such tumors showed variable degrees of malignancy with some even exhibiting metastasis. SV40 small t antigen (ST) has been reported to be necessary and sufficient to convert human fibroblasts with these pathway aberrations to a polyclonal tumor. However, we observed that clonal tumors emerged even with ST addition. Genomic instability was markedly increased by p53 and Rb pathway abrogation. Under the same conditions, fibroblasts with these alterations failed to induce tumors, implying that genomic instability may be necessary but not sufficient for malignant transformation. These findings indicate that the minimum number of events required for malignant transformation of human fibroblasts is greater than has been enumerated by such oncogene addition strategies and support a stochastic cancer progression model initiated by four defined cellular alterations.

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