The differentiation between malignant and benign adrenocortical tumors is often difficult, and better markers are required. Because the genetic background of adrenocortical tumors is poorly characterized, we used comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to screen for DNA sequence copy number changes in 8 sporadic primary adrenocrotical cancers and 14 adenomas. There was a strong relationship between the number of genetic aberrations detected using CGH and both tumor size and malignancy. No alterations were seen in the smaller adenomas (<5 cm), whereas the two largest adenomas (5 cm each) and seven of the eight cancers (7–20 cm) showed an increased number of genetic alterations. The presence of genetic aberrations detected using CGH was associated with an aneuploid DNA pattern. In the cancers, losses most often involved the chromosomal regions 2, 11q, and 17p (four of eight tumors), whereas gains took place at chromosomes 4 and 5 (four of eight tumors). In conclusion, our data indicate that genetic changes may help to define the malignant potential of adrenocortical tumors. Furthermore, the CGH results implicate several chromosomal regions that may contain genes with an important role in the development of adrenocortical cancers.

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This work was supported by Grants 2330, 0592, and 102 from the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Cancer Foundation, the Cancer Society in Stockholm (Project 95:155), the Magnus Bergwall Foundation, the Janssen-Cilags Foundation, the Fredrik and Ingrid Thuring's Foundation, the Finnish Science Academy, the Cancer Society, and the Sigrid Juselius Foundation.

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