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Cancer Detect Prev. 1996;20(2):130-6.

Activity of the DNA repair protein O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase in human tumor and corresponding normal tissue.

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Institute of Genetics, Nuclear Research Center, Karlsruhe, Germany.


The DNA repair protein O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) is a main determinant of resistance of cells towards the cytostatic effect of N-nitrosoureas. Here we report the activity of MGMT in different types of human tumors. Colorectal tumors showed the highest mean of MGMT activity (481 +/- 258 fmol/mg protein) followed by ovarian tumors (437 +/- 291 fmol/mg), breast (306 +/- 204 fmol/mg), testicular (299 +/- 179 fmol/mg), and brain tumors (55 +/- 44 fmol/mg). Only in breast and brain tumors were MGMT-deficient samples found, with a frequency of 3 and 5%, respectively. No significant difference in mean MGMT activity was observed between breast tumors of grading I, II, and III. For brain tumors there was a tendency of MGMT to decline with increasing grading. Breast and colorectal carcinomas were compared with the corresponding normal tissue obtained from the same patient. The data showed for 11 out of 12 pairs of breast tissue and for 13 out of 15 pairs of colorectal tissue that MGMT activity in the tumor was equal to or, more frequently, higher than the activity found in the corresponding normal tissue. Thus, it appears that in these groups of tumors, increase of MGMT activity during tumor formation and progression is the rule rather than the exception.

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