Pulmonary carcinogenesis due to occupational and environmental exposures to chemical carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons presents an interesting model for study of possible oncogene-related cancer biomarkers. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are important respiratory carcinogens and have been shown to cause specific mutational lesions that can lead to the activation of the ras oncogene and expression of its p21 protein product; ras oncogene activation and p21 expression frequently are detected in human lung cancers. In addition, the p21 protein is detectable via immunoblotting techniques in the serum of lung cancer patients and in selected persons in exposed worker cohorts at risk for the development of lung cancer. Thus, the ras oncogene and p21 protein may be useful biomarkers for monitoring pulmonary carcinogenesis in exposed populations.
©1991 The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine