Fluorescence in situ hybridization using centromere-specific DNA probes to chromosomes 8, 12, and 17 was applied to 23 archival paraffin-embedded stage C colonic cancer specimens. Chromosome copy number was related to flow cytometric determinations of S-phase fraction and DNA ploidy. Three to eight copies of chromosomes 8, 12, and 17 were observed at mean frequencies of 28.7%, 37.8%, and 20.9%, respectively. The mean frequency of multiple copies of chromosome 12 was significantly greater than that for chromosome 17 (P < 0.0025). The mean frequency of single copies of chromosome 17 was significantly greater than that for chromosomes 8 and 12 (P < 0.0025 and P < 0.0005, respectively). Regarding the fourth quartile of cases, defined on the basis of the frequency of multiple chromosome copies, the proportion demonstrating moderate to high proliferative activity greatly exceeded the proportion displaying low proliferative activity. The same cases (most chromosomally aberrant) also generally demonstrated DNA aneuploidy. The results indicate a substantial degree of karyotypic instability in advanced colon cancer, particularly in cases with high proliferative activity and DNA aneuploidy.


Supported in part by Grant PDT-285 awarded by the American Cancer Society (National Office).

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