The frequency of activating mutations at codons 12 and 13 of the K-ras gene was investigated in 57 sporadic adenomas from 47 patients using the polymerase chain reaction and oligonucleotide hybridisation assay. Sixty eight per cent of the adenomas tested were positive for K-ras mutations. This high frequency, combined with the lack of a correlation between mutations and adenoma size, suggest that K-ras mutations occur earlier in the adenoma-carcinoma sequence than has previously been suggested. The high frequency observed in sporadic adenomas contrasts with the reported low frequency (18%) in adenomas from patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), suggesting a possible difference in the molecular genesis of FAP and non-FAP adenomas. Finally, it was found that adenomas from patients with a personal history of colorectal cancer were more likely to contain a K-ras mutation than those from patients with no such history. This is a new finding and worthy of further study.
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