To determine the frequency and clinical significance of oncogene abnormalities in colon cancer, deoxyribonucleic acids trom 45 colon carcinomas and 15 benign adenomas were hybridized with 14 different proto oncogene probes. Abnormalities of oncogenes were found in 22% of cancers at the time of resection. Amplification of c-myc or c-erbB-2 and allelic deletion of c-ras-Ha or c-myb were the most frequent abnormalities. The presence of altered oncogenes did not correlate with Dukes' stage, tumor progression, or patient survival after resection. One adenoma had an allelic deletion of the c-myb oncogene which was not seen in either the normal colon or an adjacent carcinoma. These data indicate that the spectrum of altered proto oncogenes in colon carcinoma is similar to that of other adenocarcinomas, and that unstable oncogenes can be found before overt malignancy develops.
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