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Br J Cancer. 1995 Sep;72(3):654-62.

A possible screening test for inherited p53-related defects based on the apoptotic response of peripheral blood lymphocytes to DNA damage.

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Richard Dimbleby Department of Cancer Research, UMDS, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.


The cellular response, in terms of cell cycle arrest(s) and apoptosis, to radiation-induced DNA damage was studied. Experiments were performed on both mitogen-stimulated and resting peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) from normal and cancer-prone (C-P) individuals. The C-P individuals comprised three patients carrying germline p53 mutations and three members of two families apparently without such mutations, but with an inherited defect which results in p53 deregulation as shown by high levels of stabilised p53 protein in normal tissues. Interestingly, mitogen-stimulated PBL, from both normal and C-P individuals failed to demonstrate a G1 arrest after gamma radiation. However, a clear difference was seen in the apoptotic response to DNA damage, of PBL from normal and C-P individuals; PBLs from C-P individuals with inherited p53-related defects had a reduced apoptotic response (P = 0.0003). There was a wide margin of separation, with no overlap between the two groups, supporting the possibility of using this altered apoptotic response as a screening test. This simple and rapid procedure could be used to identify those individuals in a C-P family who carry germline p53-related defects. The method appears to detect both individuals with p53 mutations and those apparently without mutations but with other p53-related defects.

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