Cancer Genetics

by Georgina Cornwall, PhD

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    Although cancer is not necessarily heritable, on occasion it is. It is certainly a genetic disorder. Let’s take a look into the root of cancer. You’re probably all quite familiar already with the progression and metastasis of cancer from physiology. But what sorts of things do result in cancer? We know that they are mutations of genes. But let’s ask ourselves the question, what kind of genes end up resulting in cancer? Think about that for just a moment. First of all, it would certainly have to be genes. You probably recall talking about p53 and genes like that in cell cycle controls. So, any gene that has anything to do with cell cycle control, cell proliferation, or even cell death because if cell death goes awry then clearly we’re having cells around when they shouldn’t be around. Usually, they might be around or they should have been gone through apoptosis because they have some damage to them. Although very few cancers are heritable, they are certainly genetic but most arise from sporadic mutations. Those mutations generally occur in the somatic cells. For a cancer to be heritable, that mutation has to occur in a germline cell. That’s much more rare than say, regular cancer cells of the somatic kind. In any tumor though, one thing that we probably don’t think about too often, we’re taught so often that the cells are all alike and sort of undefined, but the truth is the cells of a cancer are all fairly heterogeneous. Once one mutation occurs which initiates the cancer then many other mutations will follow, such that the cells are much more heterogeneous in a tumor than we may have previously thought. We break these mutations into two types of mutations. On one hand, we have the passenger mutations or...

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Cancer Genetics by Georgina Cornwall, PhD is from the course Population Genetics.

    Author of lecture Cancer Genetics

     Georgina Cornwall, PhD

    Georgina Cornwall, PhD

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