Intraepithelial and postinvasive neoplasia as a stochastic continuum of clonal evolution, and its relationship to mechanisms of chemopreventive drug action

Charles W. Boone, Gary J. Kelloff, Lawrence S. Freedman

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25 Scopus citations


The progression of intraepithelial and postinvasive neoplasia depends on the occurrence of clonal evolution, defined as the continuous development of mutations and selective clonal expansions in the neoplastic cell population. The two continuously repeating events of clonal evolution, mutation and clonal expansion, occur at unpredictable times and locations. Therefore the neoplastic process is best characterized as a stochastic, i.e., probabilistic, continuum. The rate of intraepithelial neoplastic progression is continuously driven by the dosage level of exposure to mutagens and mitogens. For example, in chronic smokers the length of time before development of lung cancer depends on the number of cigarettes smoked per day. A commonly held misconception is that human carcinogenesis develops after an initial short period of mutation followed by a long period of stimulated proliferation (the multistage model). This incorrect idea derives from the sequential nature of the consecutive two‐ or three‐step operational protocols imposed on experimental animal models by the experimenter. In reality, human carcinogenesis develops as the result of simultaneous and continuous exposure to mutagens and mitogens over the entire period of tumor development. A recent example is the finding that the intraepithelial neoplasia of colorectal adenomas continuously progresses through serial waves of mutation and clonal expansion. The rational design of chemopreventive agents should be based on blocking the two parameters which continuously drive neoplasia: mutagenesis and mitogenesis. In addition to blocking exposure, chemopreventive agents may act at many points during activation and DNA adduction of mutagens, or during stimulation of the proliferation signal pathway by mitogens. Based on the chemopreventive strategy of blocking mutagenesis and mitogenesis, chemopreventive agents are classed as either antimutagenic or antimitogenic. A third class, the antioxidants, are both antimutagenic and antimitogenic, and operate by the common mechanism of breaking free radical chain reactions initiated by reactive oxygen species. In the program of the Chemoprevention Investigational Studies Branch, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Cancer Institute, preclinical development of antimutagens, antimitogens, and antioxidants is well under way, and some of these agents are highlighted here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-25
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue numberS17G
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Clonal evolution
  • intraepithelial neoplasia
  • mitogenesis
  • mutagenesis
  • neoplastic progression


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