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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Oct 25;102(43):15599-604. Epub 2005 Oct 20.

Creating oral squamous cancer cells: a cellular model of oral-esophageal carcinogenesis.

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Department of Medicine and Institute for Molecular Medicine and Cell Research, University of Freiburg, Hugstetter Strasse 55, 79106 Freiburg, Germany.


Immortalization and malignant transformation are important steps in tumor development. The ability to induce these processes from normal human epithelial cells with genetic alterations frequently found in the corresponding human cancer would significantly enhance our understanding of tumor development. Alterations in several key intracellular regulatory pathways (the pRB, p53, and mitogenic signaling pathways and the telomere maintenance system) appear to be sufficient for the neoplastic transformation of normal human cells. Nevertheless, in vitro transformation models to date depend on viral oncogenes, most prominently the simian virus 40 early region, to induce immortalization and malignant transformation of normal human epithelial cells. Here, we demonstrate a transformation model creating oral-esophageal cancer cells by using a limited set of genetic alterations frequently observed in the corresponding human cancer. In a stepwise model, cyclin D1 overexpression and p53 inactivation led to immortalization of oral keratinocytes. Additional ectopic epithelial growth factor receptor overexpression followed by c-myc overexpression as well as consecutive reactivation of telomerase induced by epithelial growth factor receptor sufficed to transform oral epithelial cells, truly recapitulating the development of the corresponding human disease.

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