Cowden syndrome (CS) or multiple hamartoma syndrome (MIM 158350) is an autosomal dominant disorder with an increased risk for breast and thyroid carcinoma. The diagnosis of CS, as operationally defined by the International Cowden Consortium, is made when a patient, or family, has a combination of pathognomonic major and/or minor criteria. The CS gene has recently been identified as PTEN, which maps at 10q23.3 and encodes a dual specificity phosphatase. PTEN appears to function as a tumour suppressor in CS, with between 13-80% of CS families harbouring germline nonsense, missense, and frameshift mutations predicted to disrupt normal PTEN function. To date, only a small number of tumour suppressor genes, including BRCA1, BRCA2, and p53, have been associated with familial breast or breast/ovarian cancer families. Given the involvement of PTEN in CS, we postulated that PTEN was a likely candidate to play a role in families with a 'CS-like' phenotype, but not classical CS. To answer these questions, we gathered a series of patients from families who had features reminiscent of CS but did not meet the Consortium Criteria. Using a combination of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), temporal temperature gel electrophoresis (TTGE), and sequence analysis, we screened 64 unrelated CS-like subjects for germline mutations in PTEN. A single male with follicular thyroid carcinoma from one of these 64 (2%) CS-like families harboured a germline point mutation, c.209T→C. This mutation occurred at the last nucleotide of exon 3 and within a region homologous to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin. We conclude that germline PTEN mutations play a relatively minor role in CS-like families. In addition, our data would suggest that, for the most part, the strict International Cowden Consortium operational diagnostic criteria for CS are quite robust and should remain in place.
- Cowden syndrome
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