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Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2009 Dec;28(3-4):281-90. doi: 10.1007/s10555-009-9189-4.

Biology of urothelial tumorigenesis: insights from genetically engineered mice.

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  • 1Department of Urology and Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA. xue-ru.wu@med.nyu.edu

Abstract

Urothelium, one of the slowest cycling epithelia in the body, embodies a unique biological context for cellular transformation. Introduction of oncogenes into or removing tumor suppressor genes from the urothelial cells or a combination of both using the transgenic and/or knockout mouse approaches has provided useful insights into the molecular mechanisms of urothelial transformation and tumorigenesis. It is becoming increasingly clear that over-activation of the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) pathway, as exemplified by the constitutively activated Ha-ras oncogene, is both necessary and sufficient to initiate the low-grade, non-invasive urothelial carcinomas. Dosage of the mutated Ha-ras, but not concurrent inactivation of pro-senescence molecules p16Ink4a and p19Arf, dictates whether and when the low-grade urothelial carcinomas arise. Inactivation of both p53 and pRb, a prevailing paradigm previously proposed for muscle-invasive urothelial tumorigenesis, is found to be necessary but insufficient to initiate this urothelial carcinoma variant. Instead, downregulation in p53/pRb co-deficient urothelial cells of p107, a pRb family member, is associated with the genesis of the muscle-invasive bladder cancers. p53 deficiency also seems to be capable of cooperating with that of PTEN in eliciting invasive urothelial carcinomas. The genetically engineered mice have improved the molecular definition of the divergent pathways of urothelial tumorigenesis and progression, helped delineate the intricate crosstalk among different genetic alterations within a urothelium-specific context, identified new prognostic markers and novel therapeutic targets potentially applicable for clinical intervention, and provided in vivo platforms for testing preventive strategies of bladder cancer.

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