Genetic epidemiologic methods in risk determination in Li-Fraumeni syndrome

Li Shu-Chuan Cheng, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is characterized by a variety of neoplasms occurring at a young age with an apparent autosomal dominant transmission. Individuals in pedigrees with LFS have high incidence of second malignancies. Recently LFS has been found to be associated with germline mutations of a tumor-suppressor gene, p53. Because LFS is rare and indeed not a clear-cut disease, it is not known whether all cases of LFS are attributable to p53 germline mutations and how p53 plays in cancer occurrence in such cancer syndrome families. In the present study, DNAs from constitutive cells of two-hundred and thirty-three family members from ten extended pedigrees were screened for p53 mutations. Six out of the ten LFS families had germline mutations at the p53 locus, including point and deletion mutations. In these six families, 55 out of 146 members were carriers of p53 mutations. Except one, all mutations occurred in exons 5 to 8 (i.e., the "hot spot" region) of the p53 gene. The age-specific penetrance of cancer was estimated after the genotype for each family member at risk was determined. The penetrance was 0.15, 0.29, 0.35, 0.77, and 0.91 by 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 year-old, respectively, in male carriers; 0.19, 0.44, 0.76, and 0.90 by 20, 30, 40, and 50 year-old, respectively, in female carriers. These results indicated that one cannot escape from tumorigenesis if one inherits a p53 mutant allele; at least ninety percent of p53 carriers will develop cancer by the age of 60. To evaluate the possible bias due to the unexamined blood-relatives in LFS families, I performed a simulation analysis in which a p53 genotype was assigned to each unexamined person based on his cancer status and liability to cancer. The results showed that the penetrance estimates were not biased by the unexamined relatives. I also determined the sex, site, and age-specific penetrance of breast cancer in female carriers and lung cancer in male carriers. The penetrance of breast cancer in female carriers was 0.81 by age 45; the penetrance of lung cancer in male carriers was 0.78 by age 60, indicating that p53 play a key role for tumorigenesis in common cancers.

Subject Area

Genetics|Public health|Molecular biology|Biostatistics

Recommended Citation

Cheng, Li Shu-Chuan, "Genetic epidemiologic methods in risk determination in Li-Fraumeni syndrome" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9513522.