Terminal deletions are found frequently in both malignancies and clinically recognizable deletion syndromes in man. Little is known, particularly in cancer, of the specific mechanisms which lead to the generation of deleted chromosomes or the process by which these broken chromosomes are stabilized. We demonstrate that several examples of apparent terminal deletions are, in fact, subtelomeric translations which were not detectable using conventional cytogenetics. The unexpectedly high frequency of this phenomenon and the diversity of partner chromosomes involved in the subtelomeric translocations is consistent with a model in which telomere capture can stabilize chromosome breakage in man.
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