Genetic changes involving the c-myc oncogene have been observed in human tumours. In particular, the c-myc gene is translocated in Burkitt's lymphoma1-3 and is amplified in the human promyelocytic leukaemia cell line. HL-60, which contains double minute chromosomes (DMs)4,5. More recently, an amplified c-myc gene has been positioned on a chromosomal homogeneous staining region (HSR) in a human colon cancer cell line, COLO 320, with neuroendocrine properties6. Furthermore, c-myc is expressed in increased amounts in some human tumour lines, and in some cases, human small cell lung cancers (SCLC) contain DMs and HSRs7,8. These findings prompted us to study the c-myc gene and its RNA expression in a series of human lung cancer cell lines. We now report amplification and expression of the c-myc oncogene in a system other than B-cell lymphomas9, namely human lung cancer. Of 18 human lung cancer cell lines tested, 8 showed an amplified 12.5-kilobase (kb) EcoRI c-myc DNA band. Of particular interest are five SCLC lines with a high degree of c-myc DNA amplification (20-76-fold) and greatly increased levels of c-myc RNA. All five lines reside in the variant class of SCLC (SCLC-V) characterized by altered morphology, lack of expression of some SCLC-dlfferentlated functions and more malignant behaviour than pure SCLC 10,11. Three of the five lines which have been karyotyped also contain DMs or HSRs. The finding of a greatly amplified c-myc gene in all cell lines of the SCLC-V class examined strongly suggests a role for the c-myc gene in the phenotypic conversion and malignant behaviour of human lung cancer.
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