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Biochemistry 2280A
Christopher Brandl

Molecular Biology of Cancer Molecular Basis of Cancer ● Cancer is a disease characterized by the rapid proliferation of an abnormal cell derived from one of the organism's own cells ● Cancers can be benign (they do not spread) or malignant (the cells have the ability to invade surrounding tissues) ● Depending on the cell origins, cancers are quite different diseases yet they all originate from the alteration of a cell’s ability to properly control its growth and differentiation; in fact cancer can often be traced to a single cell that has undergone an inheritable change that causes it to lose growth control ● In this regard, cancer is a genetic disease, a point highlighted by fact that many cancer causing agents damage DNA ● These cancer causing agents include: radiation and chemical mutagens Tumour Progression ● In many cases, pinpointing the origins and pathways resulting in disease is not simple; this is because a single mutation is not sufficient to cause disease ● The need to accumulate multiple mutations is one of the reasons why cancer is more prevalent in older individuals ○ a slow accumulation of specific mutations can eventually result in disease ● Tumour progression involves successive rounds of mutation and selection for specific properties that will enhance or otherwise alter cell growth ● At each stage, a progenitor cell acquires an additional mutation that gives it the ability to divide at a greater rate or grow in places that it otherwise would not Properties of Cancerous Cells ● Cancer cells do not respond to signals that normally control cell division ● Cancer cells are not sensitive to normal pathways of cellular differentiation or programmed cell death (apoptosis) ● Cancer cells are genetically unstable ● Malignant cancer cells can escape their normal environment and proliferate at foreign sites (metastasis) Cancer Prevention ● Certain environmental agents are known to cause cancer, for example UV radiation is the principal cause of skin cancer ● D
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