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Critical Reviews™ in Oncogenesis
Recurrent Fusion Oncogenes in Carcinomas
Manuel R. Teixeira
Department of Genetics, Portuguese Oncology Institute, Rua Dr. António Bernardino de Almeida, 4200-072 Porto, Portugal; and Abel Salazar Biomedical Sciences Institute (ICBAS), Porto, Portugal
Chromosome structural aberrations giving rise to fusion oncogenes is one of the most common mechanisms in oncogenesis. Although this type of gene rearrangement has long been recognized as a fundamental pathogenetic mechanism in hematologi-cal malignancies and soft-tissue tumors, it has until recently only rarely been described in the common carcinomas. In this review, the existing information on recurrent fusion oncogenes characterizing carcinomas is summarized, namely, the RET and NTRK1 fusion oncogenes in papillary thyroid carcinoma, PAX8-PPARG in follicular thyroid carcinoma, MECT1-MAML2 in mucoepidermoid carcinoma, the TFE3 and TFEB fusion oncogenes in kidney carcinomas, BRD4-NUT in midline carcinomas, ETV6-NTRK3 in secretory breast carcinomas, and TMPRSS2-ETS fusion oncogenes in prostate carcinomas. As in hematological and soft-tissue malignancies, the most common types of genes involved in fusion oncogenes in carcinomas are transcription factors and tyrosine kinases. With a few exceptions, most fusion oncogenes are tumor type specific in carcinomas, as in other cancers. The mechanisms behind the relative specificity of this type of somatic mutation involve the cellular environment influencing the selection of oncogenic fusions, and the oncogenic fusions in turn driving differentiation programs that may alter the cellular environment. The data summarized on different types of carcinomas characterized by fusion oncogenes indicate that the pathogenetic mechanisms involved in epithelial carcino-genesis may be similar to those known to operate in hematological and soft-tissue malignancies, and further anticipates that many more fusion oncogenes await identification in the most common types of human cancer.
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