Reviewers: John Han-Chih Chang, MD
Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology 1999, Volume 17, Number 4: pages 1259-1266.
BackgroundHodgkin's disease (HD) in children and young adults has been very successfully treated. Nearly 80% or more are "cured" or have become long-term survivors of those diagnosed with early-stage HD. Unfortunately, these survivors are at significant risk for secondary malignancies, the most common of which are acute myeloid leukemia (AML), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), breast cancer in women and a host of other solid tumors (soft tissue sarcomas). By 20 years out from therapy for HD, the late mortality from secondary cancers becomes significantly higher than the mortality from the initial HD itself.
Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is an autosomal recessive disease resulting from the inactivation of the ATM gene by mutations. This leads to a defect in the p53 dependent DNA-damage response pathway. Essentially, patients are at a higher than normal risk for other genetic mutations. Thus, they are more susceptible to developing lymphocytic leukemias, HD, NHL, breast and gastric carcinomas. Studies have demonstrated increased susceptibility of cultured cells with the mutated ATM to the ionizing effects of radiation therapy. Approximately 1% of the general population are AT carriers or heterozygotes. In vitro studies of AT heterozygote cell lines have shown an impaired response to the DNA damage induced by ionizing radiation, intermediate in effect between that of AT homozygotes and normal controls. AT families have demonstrated in epidemiological studies that there is an increased incidence of breast cancer among relatives considered to be carriers.
The focus of this article was to elucidate whether the high rate of second malignancies in young patients treated with HD could be correlated to an increased incidence of ATM mutations.
Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was utilized for gene amplification from the immortalized cells developed from each patient. The subsequent mutational analysis method is described in detail in the paper. Briefly, the method required that the amplified genes were to be inserted into a certain type of yeast. The yeast was then plated onto agar plates. The wild-type ATM gene (non-mutated) would yield a high number of colonies (> 75%), whereas heterozygotes (35 - 55%) and homozygotes (< 5%) had a much lower yield. Intermediate results lead to a repeat of the test to confirm the findings.
The incidence of positive family histories for malignancy in association with secondary neoplasms was evaluated. Eleven of those that had developed secondary malignant neoplasms had a positive family history of cancer. In the HD cohort that did not develop a secondary cancer, only 3 of the 68 had a positive family history. Therefore, those that had developed a secondary malignancy had a higher rate of cancer in their family history (21% versus 4%). No significant differences were seen between those that had multiple secondary malignant neoplasms versus those that had only one, concerning family history of cancer.
The ATM mutational analysis using a yeast-based protein truncation assay found no patient in the cohort of 52 who had developed secondary cancers to be carriers or heterozygotes of the AT mutation. No mention was made in reference to the control cohort as to the frequency of AT heterozygotes or homozygotes.
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