Census of Genes altered by Cancer

September 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

A listing of genes that have found to be altered by each specific Cancer.  This shows on the genetics side the diversity of genetic defects driving cancer.  

Cancer is a very complicated disease.  In fact calling it one disease is likely a mistake.  Even naming a cancer like brain cancer turns into more specialized names like Medulloblastoma, Glioblastoma, Neuroblastoma, DIPG, Pineoblastoma, etc.  Then for Medulloblastoma for example there is WNT, SHH, Group 3 and Group 4 (with new talk about sub-types inside of these sub-classifications) and grades of the disease beyond that.  

With the emergence of genetic profiling of tumors, we are just beginning to unravel the actual genetic defects that contribute to cancer tumor creation and growth.  This alone clearly shows that all cancers are not created equal.  I am including a link to here that shows the list of genes known associated with cancer and what cancers they are associated with:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8v886t6pg3rusdq/cancer_gene_census.xls

You will clearly see, each cancer from a genetic point of view is very unique.   There is emerging research going on that genetics, the actual defect of a gene either from birth or a defect later may only account for about 10% of the reasons driving cancer.  There is another field called Epigenetic’s that seems to be really driving cancer growth.  If you think of a gene in your body as a software program like on a computer that does a specific thing, it will help thinking about this analogy. 

There are Oncogenes that are genes in every cell in our body that help recreate the “hallmarks of cancer”, like creating new blood vessels to feed a tumor “Angiogenesis” or stopping cell programmed death so they live too long (Apoptosis) and speeding up DNA / cell replication.  These Oncogenes can be copied multiple times in the chromosomes (copied and pasted again).  Or Viruses can bring a new copy of an Oncogene and put it in a cell (an example Oncogene would be MYC, but we have a few dozen in every cell of our bodies).  Then, there are anti-Oncogenes.  These genes (or chemical software programs) actually watch for these behaviors of Oncogenes and try to keep them under control.  Sometimes in cancer, these Oncogenes are damaged.  Sometimes one chromosome / gene entry will be copied on top of an Anti-oncogene, thus damaging and disabling that oncogene.  These are all genetic defects that can lead to cancer.   Epigenetic’s determines when a gene should run and how often.  Consider it like the scheduler that determines whose turn it is to run and how often it should run.  In cancer, unfortunately, this scheduler on a gene by gene basis gets reprogrammed.  For Oncogenes, the scheduler gets turned on, when it should be off, or turned up so it’s running much more often causing things like fast DNA replication.  Anti-oncogenes get reprogrammed so they don’t run or don’t run as often.  

So each cancer has it’s unique combinations of one or more Oncogenes being over expressed either by genetic or epigenetic reasons.  Each cancer has it’s unique combination of one ore more Anti-Oncogenes being under expressed either by genetic or epigenetic reasons.  

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