Previous studies have suggested that the loss of DNA sequences on the short arm of chromosome 3 (3p) is associated with small-cell lung carcinoma. We therefore looked for loss of 3p alleles in tumor tissue from 42 patients with either small-cell or non-small-cell lung carcinoma. All 13 patients with small-cell lung carcinoma who were heterozygous for one or more alleles at 3p in normal tissue had the loss of at least one codominant allele in the tumor tissue. Cell lines of small-cell lung carcinoma from an additional eight patients were homozygous for 3p alleles; this result was significantly different from the predicted frequency of homozygosity. The tumor tissue studied included cell lines of small-cell lung carcinoma obtained from biopsy specimens, an autopsy sample, and an excised lymph node containing tumor cells. Loss of alleles at 3p was observed in tumor samples obtained before and after chemotherapy. Four of 15 evaluable patients with non-small-cell carcinoma of the lung had loss of 3p alleles. We conclude that loss of alleles at 3p is a change found consistently in small-cell lung carcinoma and occasionally in non-small-cell lung carcinoma. (N Engl J Med 1987;317:1109–13.) CANCER of the lung is the leading cause of death from cancer in men and the second leading cause in women.1 There are two major classes of lung cancer: small-cell lung carcinoma and non-small-cell lung cancers, which can be further divided histologically into adenocarcinoma, large-cell carcinoma, and epidermoid carcinoma. Small-cell lung carcinoma must be distinguished from non-small-cell lung carcinoma because these tumors require different initial treatments. Combination chemotherapy, sometimes combined with radiotherapy, is the standard treatment for small-cell lung carcinoma; surgical resection or radiotherapy is the standard initial treatment for non-small-cell disease.2 Small-cell lung carcinoma involves at least two distinct.
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