Cancer family syndrome: Marker studies
Individuals from kindreds with the cancer family syndrome (CFS) have an increased hereditary risk for the development of adenocarcinoma of the colon in childhood and early adulthood. Previous studies have suggested that this high occurrence of adenocarcinoma may be due to a genetic defect in the control of colonic epithelial proliferation. Others have suggested that these families may have an underlying abnormality in immunologic tumor surveillance. We have investigated these possibilities in 15 cancer-free, at-risk individuals (10 children, ages 3-15 yr, and 5 adults) from two unrelated CFS kindreds. Colonic mucosal proliferative activity was studied by in vitro autoradiography after tritiated thymidine labeling in 7 subjects. The mean labeling index (12.7 +/- 0.9%) was comparable to that in controls, as was the distribution of thymidine labeling. Immunologic evaluation revealed depressed lymphocyte culture responses to stimulation by microbial antigens, but not to that by mitogens. Mixed lymphocyte culture responses were depressed in 4 of 8 subjects, but became normal in 2 of these after filtration through a Sephadex G10 column. Natural killer cell cytotoxicity was significantly depressed in 5 of 13 subjects, and borderline normal in another 3 subjects. These data suggest that many cancer-free members of CFS kindreds have a spectrum of in vitro cell-mediated immunologic defects that might interfere in vivo with the recognition or killing of incipient tumor cells.