Genetics of cancer
Cancer is a genetic disorder in which the normal control of cell growth is lost. Cancer genetics is now one of the fastest expanding medical specialties. At the molecular level, cancer is caused by mutation(s) in DNA, which result in aberrant cell proliferation. Most of these mutations are acquired and occur in somatic cells. However, some people inherit mutation(s) in the germline. The mutation(s) occur in two classes of cellular genes: oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes.
Transformation of proto-oncogene to oncogene is the result of gain in function through:
- Over-expression of the gene, or duplication (such as amplification) to produce increased onco-protein
- Activation or formation of fusion gene by translocation
- Alteration of the gene product to produce transforming proteins
Examples of Oncogenes
- Signal transduction proteins:
- Nuclear DNA binding protein:
- Secreted growth factors:
- Growth factors cell-surface receptors:
Tumor suppressor genes
Under normal conditions, tumor suppressor genes regulate cellular differentiation and suppression of proliferation. Mutations in these genes result in unchecked cellular proliferation resulting in tumors with abnormal cell cycles and tumor proliferation. The tumor suppressor genes contribute to cancer by the inactivating of loss of function mutation.
Examples of tumor suppressor genes
DNA repair genes
Increasing evidence suggests mutation in genes that regulate recognition and repair of DNA damage are critical in tumorigenesis. These DNA damage recognition and repair genes could be considered a unique class of cancer. DNA repair genes are often affected by loss of function mutations.
References and further reading
- Fiona Lalloo. Genetics of Oncologists. ISBN.1901346196. remedica Publishing
- Robert F. Mueller AND Young I.D.Emery's Elements of Medical Genetics. ISBN.0 443 07125 X