Cytogenetic analysis of short-term cultures from 33 basal cell carcinomas (BCC), a type of neoplasm for which no previous karyological data exist, revealed clonal chromosome aberrations, all of them different, in 8 tumors. In 2 cases, 2 cytogenetically unrelated clones were detected, suggesting a multicellular origin in at least a subset of BCC. A remarkably high level of nonclonal structural rearrangements, mostly in the form of seemingly balanced translocations, was found in 23 tumors; namely, in 6 of 8 BCC with clonal karyotypic abnormalities and in 17 of 25 without. It is possible that some of these aberrations represent additional neoplastic clones, thus indicating an even higher level of cytogenetic heterogeneity in BCC.
We think that the most likely interpretation of the results is that BCC may have a multicellular origin, reflecting field cancerization of the skin. During subsequent tumor development, the selection pressure narrows down the number of clones that infiltrate the surrounding tissue. The finding by karyotypic analysis of some apparently monoclonal, some polyclonal BCC, may reflect that different tumors have been examined at different points in the clonal evolution of the neoplastic cells.
Research supported by the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Work Environment Fund, and the Medical Faculty of Lund University.