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Crit Rev Oncog. 1989;1(3):323-41.

A deficiency in chromatin repair, genetic instability, and predisposition to cancer.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland.


This review traces steps leading to malignant neoplastic transformation of rodent and human cells in culture and in vivo. Emphasis is placed on an abnormal response characterized by persistent chromatid damage following irradiation of cells in culture with X-rays or fluorescent light during G2 phase of the cell cycle. Evidence is presented that deficient or unbalanced DNA repair during G2 accounts for the abnormal response. This G2 repair deficiency can be inherited or acquired by normal tissue cells during the process of or following attainment of infinite lifespan. It appears as an early, possibly initiating step in neoplastic transformation. It characterizes all human tumor cells examined irrespective of histopathology or tissue of origin. It has a genetic basis. In an animal model, the BALB/c mouse, this phenotype is associated with genes on chromosomes 1 and 4. It characterizes skin fibroblasts and blood lymphocytes from individuals with genetic or familial conditions predisposing to cancer and can be used to identify clinically normal family members carrying a gene(s) for any one of the three cancer-prone genetic disorders studied to date. Furthermore, it can provide the basis of a test for carriers of genes predisposing to a high risk of cancer. We conclude that the G2 repair deficiency, whether inherited or acquired, is a prerequisite for cancer development and that it accounts for the genetic instability of the cancer cell.

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