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J Pathol. 1997 Mar;181(3):281-6.

Genetic heterogeneity in sporadic colorectal adenomas.

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Institute of Pathology, University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.


The majority of colorectal cancers develop from adenomatous polyps under the influence of factors that are still poorly understood. Tumourigenesis is generally considered a multistep process in which multiple genetic alterations occur, eventually reflected in abnormalities of the cellular DNA content. Macroscopical features such as tumour size and tumour architecture (tubular, tubulovillous, or villous) are correlated wit the chance of malignancy in the lesion. Grade of dysplasia can be considered an indicator for the level of progression of the adenoma towards invasive carcinoma. These characteristics were correlated with the presence or absence of K-ras mutations and the DNA ploidy in a prospective study performed on 46 large sporadic colorectal adenomas resected by endoscopy. DNA ploidy and K-ras mutations were analysed in two samples taken at distant sites in the adenomas. Aneuploidy was present in 12 adenomas (26 per cent) and K-ras mutations occurred in 26 (57 per cent). A highly significant correlation was found between aneuploidy and adenoma size, architecture, and grade of dysplasia. The presence of K-ras mutations was significantly correlated only with the size of the adenomas. The proportion of adenomas with aneuploidy and/or a K-ras mutation increased when two samples were analysed instead of one. This observation suggests that the prevalence of genetic mutations and of aneuploidy is probably underestimated, as generally only one sample is investigated. No correlation was observed between K-ras mutations and ploidy. This study demonstrates the presence of genetic heterogeneity in colorectal adenomas and supports the notion that K-ras mutation is an early event, while aneuploidy is a late event in the adenoma-carcinoma sequence.

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