Loss of function of the p53 tumor suppressor gene by point mutation is the most commonly detected genetic alteration in human cancer. There is growing evidence that amplification and overexpression of the MDM2 gene are alternative mechanisms that also lead to functional inactivation of p53. While p53 mutations and MDM2 amplification have been reported to occur in rhabdomyosarcoma and osteogenic sarcoma, the incidence of MDM2 in other pediatric solid tumors is not known. We therefore tested a series of other pediatric solid tumors for MDM2 gene amplification. MDM2 amplification could not be detected in specimens from 40 Wilms' tumors, 15 neuroblastomas, 12 sarcomas, or 4 hepatoblastomas tested. To determine whether MDM2 amplification was an alternative mechanism of p53 inactivation in adult carcinomas that frequently possess p53 mutations, 68 samples of squamous cell carcinomas of the upper aerodigestive tract, 24% of which were previously shown to contain p53 mutations, were also tested for MDM2 amplification. MDM2 amplification did not occur in any of the tumor specimens tested. These findings suggest that MDM2 amplification may only occur in a limited subset of human tumors. Loss of function of p53 may be an essential event in human tumorigenesis. If so, then other mechanisms of p53 inactivation must occur in those tumors that exhibit neither p53 mutation nor MDM2 amplification.

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This work was supported by NIH Grant CA60173 and grants from the Henry L. Moore Memorial Research Fund of Children's Medical Center, The Weekend to Wipe Out Cancer, and The Children's Cancer Fund of Dallas.

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