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Methylation of the Tumor Suppressor Gene RASSF1A in Human Tumors

G. P. Pfeifer1* and R. Dammann2

1Department of Biology, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Cancer Center, Duarte, California 91010, USA; fax: 626-358-7703; E-mail: gpfeifer@coh.org

2AG Tumorgenetik der Medizinischen Fakultät, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Halle/Saale 06097, Germany

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received November 10, 2004

Loss of heterozygosity of a segment at 3p21.3 is frequently observed in lung cancer and several other carcinomas. We have identified the Ras-association domain family 1A gene (RASSF1A), which is localized at 3p21.3 in a minimum deletion sequence. De novo methylation of the RASSF1A promoter is one of the most frequent epigenetic inactivation events detected in human cancer and leads to silencing of RASSF1A expression. Hypermethylation of RASSF1A was frequently found in most major types of human tumors including lung, breast, prostate, pancreas, kidney, liver, cervical, thyroid and many other cancers. The detection of RASSF1A methylation in body fluids such as serum, urine, and sputum promises to be a useful marker for early cancer detection. The functional analysis of RASSF1A reveals a potential involvement of this protein in apoptotic signaling, microtubule stabilization, and cell cycle progression.

KEY WORDS: RASSF1A, DNA methylation, tumor suppressor, cancer