The entire coding sequence of the p53 gene was analysed for the presence of mutations in 12 families conforming to a restricted definition of Li-Fraumeni syndrome (classic LFS) and nine families with features of LFS conforming to a broader definition. Mutations were detected in seven families. Six were point mutations with one each affecting codons 175, 180, and 220 and three affecting codon 248. The seventh was a deletion/insertion mutation in exon 4. Germline mutations in p53 were a feature of families which included children with rhabdomyosarcoma and/or adrenal cortical carcinoma. Germline p53 mutations were detected in six of the nine families with such tumors. An analysis of these 7 mutations, together with 34 published examples, showed that more than one-half were transitions at CpG dinucleotides, suggesting that the majority of germline p53 mutations may arise as a result of spontaneous events. The most common cancers occuring in the 41 families with germline p53 mutations, in common with classic LFS, were bone and soft tissue sarcoma, breast cancer, brain tumors, leukemia, and adrenocortical carcinoma, although less than one-half of the probands with germline p53 mutations came from classic LFS families. More than one-half of the cancers overall and nearly one-third of the breast cancers were diagnosed before 30 years of age. These observations have important implications for asymptomatic carriers of germline p53 mutations, and there is a need for international collaboration in the development of protocols for the management of such families.
This research was supported by the Cancer Research Campaign. J. M. B. is a Cancer Research Campaign Reader in Oncology.