Somatic genetic changes in human breast cancer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1994 Dec 30;1198(2-3):113-30. doi: 10.1016/0304-419x(94)90009-4.


Quantitative imbalance in chromosomal material relative to the normal diploid situation is the most conspicuous genetic change in breast tumors, affecting virtually all chromosomes in varying frequencies. This imbalance is reflected by deviant DNA stemlines observed in DNA flow cytometry analysis, by numerical chromosome abnormalities in karyotype analysis and by loss of heterozygosity in DNA polymorphism studies. Gene amplification might be caused by the same genetic mechanisms that cause these chromosomal abnormalities [134]. The number of known genes for which there is now good evidence for their role in the development of breast cancer is still limited, and basically restricted to TP53 and ERBB2. Clearly, the estrogen receptor, not discussed here, can be conjectured to be of importance in breast cancer development, yet the significance of the reported sequence variants [157] for hormone-independent growth is presently undetermined [158]. For many others, such as MYC, CCND1, EMS1, EGF, RB1, NME, DCC and prohibitin, the evidence is still largely circumstantial, or obtained only by in vitro studies on breast cancer cell lines. In many cases of chromosomal imbalance and certainly those affecting whole chromosomes or chromosome arms, it is unclear what their effect on tumor growth will be, because multiple potential candidate genes are located in the affected region. In addition, it is obvious that multiple chromosomes are affected simultaneously in a single tumor, but that the total set of chromosome changes varies in different tumors. This intra- and intertumor heterogeneity of chromosome involvement suggests that an unknown number of the observed abnormalities are not important for tumor development, but merely result from genetic instability. On the other hand, there is accumulating evidence, particularly from flow cytometry and allelotype studies reviewed here, to suggest that the genetic evolution associated with tumor development and progression does reach a stage of equilibrium despite the presence of extensive tumor heterogeneity. The number of genetic events found per tumor raises the question whether each event of heterozygosity loss represents the second step in the inactivation of a tumor suppressor gene. Also, LOH observed with polymorphic markers can sometimes be interpreted as allelic copy number gain instead of loss. Possibly, some of these allelic imbalances contribute to the tumorigenic process simply because they create a dosage effect in certain gene products [2]. This supposes that the sole presence of allelic imbalance at certain chromosomes is sufficient to provide selective growth advantage in certain cases.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cytogenetics
  • DNA Replication
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization