PHILADELPHIA (September 15, 2008) More than 30 years ago, Alfred Knudson Jr., M.D., Ph.D., revolutionized the field of cancer genetics by showing that a person must lose both their paternal and maternal copies of a particular class of cancer-inhibiting genes, called tumor-suppressor genes, in order to develop cancer. This theory, called the two-hit hypothesis, guided scientists around the globe in their quest for tumor suppressor genes. Now Knudson, a Fox Chase Cancer Center Distinguished Scientist and senior advisor to the Center president, and colleagues offer evidence that a "one-hit" event is enough to change the cells and increase the likelihood they would become cancerous.
By studying people who have inherited the first hit in every cell in the body, the Fox Chase researchers believe they may have discovered a source for some of the earliest known molecular changes that signal the presence of colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Their findings are presented in the September 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research.
"We hypothesized that an inherited one-hit gene mutation can, by itself, lead to changes in the proteins of normal-looking cells" says Anthony Yeung, Ph.D., lead author of the paper and a tenured member of the Fox Chase scientific staff. "While these cells are just another hit away from becoming cancerous, their altered patterns of protein production may represent new biomarkers of cancer and novel targets for preventive and therapeutic drugs a chance to strike at cancer before a second hit can happen."
The Fox Chase researchers studied patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited disorder that also serves as a classic model in support of the two-hit hypothesis. Patients with FAP, which predisposes people to colon cancer, carry mutations in one of their two copies of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumor-suppressor gene. The APC gene acts to
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Fox Chase Cancer Center