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Cancer Res. 2003 Aug 15;63(16):4777-80.

Modulation of medullary thyroid carcinoma penetrance suggests the presence of modifier genes in a RET transgenic mouse model.

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University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK Department of Oncology, CIMR, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2XY, United Kingdom.


We described previously a thyroid phenotype for transgenic mice expressing an activated Ret oncogene driven from a human calcitonin promoter. Medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTC), a tumor of the thyroid parafollicular C cells, occur in this transgenic line with a pathology analogous to that seen in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). When the transgene was introgressed onto four different genetic backgrounds, between 0 and 98% of transgenic progeny developed thyroid tumors by 10 months of age, indicating that tumor penetrance could be modulated by genetic background. Furthermore, tumors on the CBA/ca and C57BL/6J backgrounds were significantly larger than those arising in BALB/c transgenic mice. These results are relevant to human MEN2 disease, because this model system may be used to study genes modifying thyroid tumor penetrance in the dominantly inherited human cancer syndrome.

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