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Int J Cancer. 1999 Jul 19;82(2):180-6.

Multiple primary tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract: is there a role for constitutional mutations in the p53 gene?

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Institute of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, University of Florence, Italy.


Head-and-neck cancer (HNC) patients have a high risk of developing second primary tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract, the main cause of death. Although the roles of tobacco and diet in multiple head-and-neck carcinogenesis have been thoroughly investigated, little is known about individual genetic susceptibility factors involved in this process. Genomic instability, reflecting the propensity and the susceptibility of the genome to acquire multiple alterations, could be considered a driving force behind multiple carcinogenesis. Mutation of the p53 tumor-suppressor gene has been proposed to play an important role in this process. Therefore, we evaluated the incidence of inherited p53 germ-line alteration(s) in a population of 24 consecutive HNC patients and their first-degree relatives affected by multiple malignancies as well as the occurrence of p53 somatic acquired mutation(s) in 16 cancers, including first and second primaries from 5 HNCs of the same group. Mutations in exons 4-11 of the p53 gene were investigated using SSCP-PCR analysis and DNA sequencing. Analysis was extended to the peripheral blood and cancer biopsies available from first-degree relatives of cancer-prone families with p53 germ-line mutations. p53 germ-line mutations were identified in the peripheral blood and corresponding cancers of 3 HNC patients who had multiple malignancies. The only missense mutation detected was mapped in exon 6; it is a GTG to GAG substitution with an amino acid change from Val to Glu at codon 197. The remaining 2 p53 germ-line mutations were single-nucleotide substitutions without amino acid change in exon 6 (codon 213, CGA to CGG) and in exon 8 (codon 295, CCT to CCC), respectively. These mutations were found in HNC patients with a family history of cancer. Abnormal expression of wild-type p53 protein in normal and pathological tissues from patients with the same sense single-nucleotide substitutions was detected by immuno-histochemistry.

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