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Cancer Res. 2003 Mar 15;63(6):1398-404.

Centrosome abnormalities and chromosome instability occur together in pre-invasive carcinomas.

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Department of Pathology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.


Centrosomes play critical roles in processes that ensure proper segregation of chromosomes and maintain the genetic stability of human cells. They contribute to mitotic spindle organization and regulate aspects of cytokinesis and cell cycle progression. We and others have shown that centrosomes are abnormal in most aggressive carcinomas. Moreover, centrosome defects have been implicated in chromosome instability and loss of cell cycle control in invasive carcinoma. Others have suggested that centrosome defects only occur late in tumorigenesis and may not contribute to early steps of tumor development. To address this issue, we examined pre-invasive human carcinoma in situ lesions for centrosome defects and chromosome instability. We found that a significant fraction of precursor lesions to some of the most common human cancers had centrosome defects, including in situ carcinomas of the uterine cervix, prostate, and female breast. Moreover, centrosome defects occurred together with mitotic spindle defects, chromosome instability, and high cytologic grade. Because most pre-invasive lesions are not uniformly mutant for p53, the development of centrosome defects does not appear to require abrogation of p53 function. Our findings demonstrate that centrosome defects occur concurrently with chromosome instability and cytologic changes in the earliest identifiable step in human cancer. Our results suggest that centrosome defects may contribute to the earliest stages of cancer development through the generation of chromosome instability. This, together with ongoing structural changes in chromosomes, could accelerate accumulation of alleles carrying pro-oncogenic mutations and loss of alleles containing wild-type tumor suppressor genes and thus accelerate the genomic changes characteristic of carcinoma, the most prevalent human cancer.

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