Carcinogenesis of basal cell carcinomas: genetics and molecular mechanisms

Authors


Professor J.P.Lacour.
E-mail: lacour@unice.fr

Summary

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin is the most common type of cancer in humans. Like squamous cell carcinomas, they are also believed to be ultraviolet (UV)-induced, but several data suggest that some differences might exist in the mechanisms of their UV induction. The originating cells may arise from interfollicular basal cells, hair follicles or sebaceous glands, thus from a deeper zone than the SCC ones, which probably means exposure to different doses or wavelengths of UV. The p53 gene and the patched gene (PTCH) are major targets of UV for BCC induction. Mutations in p53 are present in about 56% of human BCC, even small early lesions. The ‘UV signature’ is observed in 65% of them. Mutations in the PTCH play also a major role in BCC development, being responsible for hereditary BCCs in Gorlin's syndrome, sporadic BCC, and BCCs isolated from xeroderma pigmentosum, although with a lower incidence of ‘UV signature’. Smoothened-activating mutations and PTCH2 mutations are also involved in BCC formation. Transgenic mice overexpressing Smoothened or Sonic hedgehog in the skin spontaneously produce skin lesions resembling human BCCs, but contrary to findings in the hairless albino mouse and with SCC, no data on experimental UV induction of BCCs are available.

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