A few years ago it was reported that some growth-hormone-deficient children had developed leukemia following therapy with human growth hormone. This raised concern that this therapy may stimulate tumor development. Since it is known that the tendency to develop cancer is closely related to chromosome breakage, we decided to investigate whether recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) therapy can increase chromosome fragility. Ten short normal children were studied during their first year of treatment. Lymphocytes were collected at 0, 6 and 12 months of rhGH therapy, and we assessed the rate of spontaneous chromosome aberrations, the frequency of sister chromatid exchanges, the proliferative rate indices, the expression of common fragile sites induced by aphidicolin, and the sensitivity towards the radiomimetic action of bleomycin. At 6 months of therapy, there was a significant increase in bleomycin-induced chromosome aberrations, which remained unchanged after 1 year of treatment. An increase in spontaneous chromosome rearrangements at 6 and 12 months of therapy was also observed. These findings are further supported by data obtained from the analysis of 16 short normal children already on rhGH therapy.
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