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Cancer Res. 2001 May 1;61(9):3581-5.

5' CpG island methylation of the FHIT gene is correlated with loss of gene expression in lung and breast cancer.

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Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.


Allele loss and loss of expression of fragile histidine triad (FHIT), a putative tumor suppressor gene located in chromosome region 3p14.2, are frequent in several types of cancers. Tumor-acquired methylation of promoter region CpG islands is one method for silencing tumor suppressor genes. We investigated 5' CpG island methylation of the FHIT gene in 107 primary non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) samples and corresponding nonmalignant lung tissues, 39 primary breast carcinomas, as well as in 49 lung and 22 breast cancer cell lines by a methylation-specific PCR assay. In addition, we analyzed brushes from the bronchial epithelium of 35 heavy smokers without cancer. FHIT methylation was detected in 37% of primary NSCLCs, 31% of primary breast cancers, and 65% of lung and 86% of breast cancer cell lines. The frequency of methylation in small cell and NSCLC cell lines were identical. Methylation was found in 9% of the corresponding nonmalignant lung tissues and in 17% of bronchial brushes from heavy cigarette smokers. FHIT methylation was significantly correlated with loss of FHIT mRNA expression by Northern blot analysis in lung cancer cell lines and with loss of Fhit expression in NSCLC and breast tumors by immunostaining. We conclude that methylation of FHIT is a frequent event in NSCLC and breast cancers and is an important mechanism for loss of expression of this gene. Methylation of FHIT commences during lung cancer pathogenesis and may represent a marker for risk assessment.

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