Purpose: We investigated the possibility that a significant proportion of children with osteosarcoma harbor germline mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene and, therefore, this subgroup of pediatric cancer patients should be considered for large-scale predictive testing.
Patients and methods: Genomic DNA extracted from peripheral-blood leukocytes from 235 unselected children with osteosarcoma from 33 institutions were screened for the presence of germline p53 mutations using constant denaturant gel electrophoresis (CDGE). Exons 5 through 8 were evaluated in all patients and exon 2 and exon 9 were analyzed in 59 and 95 patients, respectively. Those samples that showed aberrant migration on CDGE were sequenced or analyzed by restriction enzyme digestion of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products to confirm the nature of the gene alteration.
Results: In 18 samples, CDGE showed fragments of the p53 gene with altered electrophoretic mobilities compared with wild-type p53. DNA sequencing showed that 11 samples had an identical, previously described polymorphism. The other seven contained heterozygous p53 mutations located in exon 5 (n = 3), exon 6 (n = 1), exon 7 (n = 1), and exon 8 (n = 2). Six alterations were missense mutations and one was a nonsense mutation. Three of these patients had first-degree relatives with cancer. One of these three kindreds had a family history consistent with Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS).
Conclusion: We identified germline p53 mutations in seven of 235 (3.0%) children with osteosarcoma. Four of these mutations were found in patients who did not have first-degree relatives with cancer. Although genetic transmission of the altered p53 gene could not be tested in this survey because of how it was designed, it is possible that predictive testing for p53 mutations could identify unaffected relatives of gene carriers who also have a high risk for the development of cancer. This study provides evidence for the importance of considering children with osteosarcoma for predictive testing for germline p53 mutations.