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Cancer. 1997 Mar 15;79(6):1106-13.

Activation of the K-ras oncogene in colorectal neoplasms is associated with decreased apoptosis.

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Department of Medical Oncology, St. Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, Australia.



Recent in vitro data indicate that the oncogenic effects of activated ras genes may be mediated, at least in part, through inhibition of apoptotic cell death. To examine this proposition in vivo, the relationship between mutations of the K-ras gene and the frequency of apoptosis was studied in a series of 69 sporadic colorectal neoplasms (11 adenomas and 58 carcinomas).


Mutations in codon 12 of K-ras were determined by a single tube, enriched polymerase chain reaction. Apoptotic cells in tumor sections were identified by in situ end-labeling of fragmented DNA, whereas levels of bcl-2 and p53 proteins were determined by immunohistochemistry.


Tumors with mutant K-ras had a significantly lower apoptotic index than those with the wild-type allele (P < 0.05). They were also more likely to exhibit positive bcl-2 staining (P < 0.05). Adenomas showed significantly greater bcl-2 positivity than carcinomas (89% and 51%, respectively; P < 0.05). The frequency of apoptosis in these tumors was not related to either bcl-2 positivity or p53 status.


These findings suggest that activation of K-ras in colorectal carcinoma may inhibit apoptosis and thus favor tumor progression. Alternatively, this association may reflect an accumulation of K-ras mutations in cells in which normal apoptotic pathways have been impaired.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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