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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1977 May;58(5):1221-4.

Tritiated thymidine incorporation into epithelial cells of normal-appearing colorectal mucosa of cancer patients.


A radioautographic analysis of the number and position of labeled epithelial nuclei after in vitro incorporation of tritiated thymidine ([3H]TDR) was carried out with 30 specimens of histologically normal colorectal mucosa from 26 patients, of whom 13 were being treated for rectal or sigmoid cancer and 13 were controls. A higher mean labeling index was found in the cancer than in the control group (9.8% +/- 1.2 and 7.9% +/- 0.9, respectively). Because of wide individual variations, this difference was not statistically significant. However, a highly significant upward shift of the proliferating cell compartment was observed in the cancer group, resulting in a specific modification of the [3H]TDR labeling pattern in 6 of 17 specimens. DNA synthesis predominated in the middle or middle and upper thirds of the crypts of Lieberk├╝hn rather than in the lower third as observed in controls. The patchy alteration of epithelial cell renewal frequently accompanying colorectal cancer was suggestive of a defect in the regulatory control mechanism. This in vitro [3H]TDR incorporation assay could provide a valuable discriminatory parameter in studies of high-risk populations.

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