Germline mutations and polymorphisms in the origins of cancers in women

J Oncol. 2010;2010:297671. doi: 10.1155/2010/297671. Epub 2010 Jan 10.


Several female malignancies including breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers can be characterized based on known somatic and germline mutations. Initiation and propagation of tumors reflect underlying genomic alterations such as mutations, polymorphisms, and copy number variations found in genes of multiple cellular pathways. The contributions of any single genetic variation or mutation in a population depend on its frequency and penetrance as well as tissue-specific functionality. Genome wide association studies, fluorescence in situ hybridization, comparative genomic hybridization, and candidate gene studies have enumerated genetic contributors to cancers in women. These include p53, BRCA1, BRCA2, STK11, PTEN, CHEK2, ATM, BRIP1, PALB2, FGFR2, TGFB1, MDM2, MDM4 as well as several other chromosomal loci. Based on the heterogeneity within a specific tumor type, a combination of genomic alterations defines the cancer subtype, biologic behavior, and in some cases, response to therapeutics. Consideration of tumor heterogeneity is therefore important in the critical analysis of gene associations in cancer.