Cancer Proteins Background
Cancer is fundamentally a disease of failure of regulation of tissue growth. In order for a normal cell to transform into a cancer cell, the genes which regulate cell growth and differentiation must be altered. The affected genes are divided into two broad categories. Oncogenes are genes which promote cell growth and reproduction. Tumor suppressor genes are genes which inhibit cell division and survival. Malignant transformation can occur through the formation of novel oncogenes, the inappropriate over-expression of normal oncogenes, or by the under-expression or disabling of tumor suppressor genes. Typically, changes in many genes are required to transform a normal cell into a cancer cell. Genetic changes can occur at different levels and by different mechanisms. The gain or loss of an entire chromosome can occur through errors in mitosis. More common are mutations, which are changes in the nucleotide sequence of genomic DNA.