Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Cancer arises through successive somatic mutations/epimutations of oncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes. Accurate estimates of the rates at which these (epi)mutations occur are a vital but missing link in our emerging quantitative understanding of tumorigenesis. Their absence has hindered arguments concerning the importance of genetic instability in tumorigenesis and the number of mutations that precede malignant conversion of healthy cell lineages. Herein, a novel method for calculating the in vivo mutation rate of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumor-suppressor gene is presented. The large majority of bowel cancers are thought to be initiated by a partial loss of APC function, with the age-onset pattern dramatically altered for the worse in familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) because these patients harbor selected germline APC mutations. Colon cancer in the context of FAP can be thought of as occurring "one hit quicker" than in the sporadic setting. We were able to isolate and estimate the rate of the initiating APC mutation in sporadic cases using the age incidence of FAP to approximate the time taken for a cell lineage in a sporadic patient with one APC mutation to present clinically as a cancer. Our result of approximately 10(-5) mutations per allele per year, although higher than previous estimates, appears to be consistent with the mutational spectrum of APC. The quality of fit provided by this method supports the theory that FAP and sporadic bowel cancer follow the same genetic pathway and are separated by only one mutation.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Pathol

Publication Date





1062 - 1068


Adenomatous Polyposis Coli, Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein, Age Distribution, Alleles, Cell Lineage, Epithelium, Humans, Mutation, Stem Cells