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Cancer Res. 2001 Mar 15;61(6):2676-83.

Genetic pathways in the evolution of morphologically distinct colorectal neoplasms.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0688, USA.


Colorectal adenomas can be morphologically classified as exophytic or flat. Polypoid cancers and cancers arising de novo (ie., without any adenomatous component) might be the results of genetic progression from exophytic and flat adenomas, respectively. In this study, we examined 94 morphologically distinct neoplastic specimens for mutations in K-RAS and analyzed 10 microsatellite loci tightly linked to the tumor suppressor genes APC, p53, DCC/SMAD4, hMSH2, and hMLH1. K-RAS mutations were significantly associated with exophytic adenomas [11 of 21 (52%)] compared to flat adenomas [2 of 13(15%), P < 0.03] and polypoid cancers [17 of 25 (68%)] compared to cancers arising de novo [7 of 25 (28%), P < 0.01]. Two polypoid cancer cases demonstrated three and four different K-RAS mutations, respectively, suggesting multiple areas of clonal expansion. Cancers arising de novo were significantly associated with loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at chromosome 3p compared to pol ypoid cancers [6 of 18(33%) versus 1 of 20(5%), P < 0.03], whereas the prevalence of LOH at chromosomes 2p, 5q, 17p, and 18q and microsatellite instability were not different between the groups. For all cancers, LOH at chromosomes 17p and 18q occurred in 47 and 51%, respectively. However, LOH at 17p and 18q occurred in 0 and 16% of benign lesions, respectively, suggesting their role in malignant transformation. There was no difference in LOH at chromosomes 17p and 18q between exophytic and flat lesions. These findings suggest that (a) mutant K-RAS is associated with the exophytic growth of colonic neoplasms, and that (b) some colorectal cancers arising de novo lose chromosome 3p during their evolution, which is not seen in polypoid cancers. Half of all cancers lose chromosomes 17p and 18q at or near the malignant transition of benign lesions as reported previously, irrespective of morphology. There may be more than one genetic avenue for colorectal cancer formation, and this correlates with the morphological characteristics.

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