Colorectal cancers (CRCs) are characterized by multiple genetic (mutations) and epigenetic (CpG island methylation) alterations, but it is not known whether these evolve independently through stochastic processes. We have recently described a novel pathway termed CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) in CRC, which is characterized by the simultaneous methylation of multiple CpG islands, including several known genes, such as p16, hMLH1, and THBS1. We have now studied mutations in K-RAS, p53, DPC4, and TGFβRII in a panel of colorectal tumors with or without CIMP. We find that CIMP defines two groups of tumors with significantly different genetic lesions: frequent K-RAS mutations were found in CIMP+ CRCs (28/41, 68%) compared with CIMP- cases (14/47, 30%, P = 0.0005). By contrast, p53 mutations were found in 24% (10/41) of CIMP+ CRCs vs. 60% (30/46) of CIMP- cases (P = 0.002). Both of these differences were independent of microsatellite instability. These interactions between CIMP, K-RAS mutations, and p53 mutations were preserved in colorectal adenomas, suggesting that they occur early in carcinogenesis. The distinct combinations of epigenetic and genetic alterations in each group suggest that activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes is related to the underlying mechanism of generating molecular diversity in cancer, rather than simply accumulate stochastically during cancer development.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jan 18 2000|
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