Monday, 23 August 2010
When the Cell Cycle Runs Amok: Cancer
At root, all cancers are failures of the cell cycle. Cancers represent a failure of cells to limit their multiplication in the cell cycle.
A large portion of modern cancer researcher is cell-cycle research: if uncontrolled cell division can be stopped, cancer can be stopped.
To use a common metaphor, two things are required to bring cells to this state: their accelerators must get stuck and their brakes must fail.
The control mechanisms that induce cell division must become hyperactive, and the mechanisms that suppress cell division must fail to work.
One cell dividing to create two is important for growth, for wound repair, and for creating the next generation of organisms.
But if this process is not properly controlled, rogue cancer cells can be produced. Cells can become cancerous (go through accelerated and unregulated division) because they acquire mutations in the genes that normally control the rate at which they travel through the cell cycle.