Genetic analysis of colorectal cancer.
Bodmer WF., Cottrell S., Frischauf AM., Kerr IB., Murday VA., Rowan AJ., Smith MF., Solomon E., Thomas H., Varesco L.
Adenomatous polyposis, mainly of the colon, (APC) is a rare dominantly inherited susceptibility to colon cancer in which individuals develop hundreds of polyps mainly in their large bowel. The APC gene has been localised to chromosome 5q21 by following up a case report of an individual with an interstitial deletion on chromosome 5q who had multiple developmental abnormalities together with adenomatous polyposis. A DNA marker (D5S71) was found to be closely linked to APC in family studies and localised to 5q21 by in situ annealing. Material from further patients with deletions in this region of chromosome 5 has been used, by a combination of somatic cell hybrid and long-range DNA analysis, to identify new DNA markers close to the APC gene. These and other markers now provide the basis for genetic counselling of nearly all families with APC. These studies are being extended, together with other approaches for analysing DNA clones around the APC gene, in the search for the gene itself. Allele loss in tumour as compared to normal tissue from sporadic cases of colorectal carcinomas has clearly implicated the APC gene in at least 25 to 40% of all cases of colorectal carcinomas. Similar studies by Vogelstein and others as well as ourselves have further implicated recessive changes on chromosomes 17 and 18 in the development of colorectal carcinomas. Following the demonstration by Vogelstein of the role of p53 mutations in connection with the chromosome 17 changes, we have now shown, using monoclonal antibodies to the mutant p53 products and by other approaches, that changes in the p53 gene may occur in up to 50% or more of colorectal carcinomas. Frequent mutations of the K-ras dominant oncogene, as well as changes in the expression of human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-A, B, C determinants, are further genetic changes that appear commonly to be involved in the progression of colorectal carcinomas. The latter have important implications for T cell immune response to tumours and its manipulation for treatment and even prevention of colorectal cancer. We may soon be approaching a situation when it will become possible to identify all the genetic steps and their sequence during tumour progression, as well as their functional significance largely through the induction of inappropriate growth and the suppression of differentiation.