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 is believed to be a disease involving stem cells. The digestive tract has a very high cancer prevalence partly owing to rapid epithelial cell turnover and exposure to dietary toxins. Work on the hereditary cancer syndromes including familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) has led to significant advances, including the adenoma-carcinoma sequence. The initial mutation involved in this stepwise progression is in the "gatekeeper" tumor suppressor gene adenomatous polyposis coli (APC). In FAP somatic, second hits in this gene are nonrandom events, selected for by the position of the germ-line mutation. Extensive work in both the mouse and human has shown that crypts are clonal units and mutated stem cells may develop a selective advantage, eventually forming a clonal crypt population by a process called "niche succession." Aberrant crypt foci are then formed by the longitudinal division of crypts into two daughter units--crypt fission. The early growth of adenomas is contentious with two main theories, the "top-down" and "bottom-up" hypotheses, attempting to explain the spread of dysplastic tissue in the bowel. Initial X chromosome inactivation studies suggested that colorectal tumors were monoclonal; however, work on a rare XO/XY human patient with FAP and chimeric Min mice showed that 76% of adenomas were polyclonal. A reduction in tumor multiplicity in the chimeric mouse model has been achieved by the introduction of a homozygous tumor resistance allele. This model has been used to suggest that short-range interaction between adjacent initiated crypts, not random polyp collision, is responsible for tumor polyclonality.

Original publication




Journal article


Stem Cell Rev

Publication Date





233 - 241


Adenomatous Polyposis Coli, Alleles, Animals, Chimera, Disease Models, Animal, Embryonal Carcinoma Stem Cells, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Genes, Tumor Suppressor, Humans, Loss of Heterozygosity, Mice, Mutation, Neoplastic Stem Cells, X Chromosome Inactivation