Gene types

Most cancers are monoclonal, arising from a single cell that has accumulated key mutations leading to uncontrolled cell proliferation. Such mutations can cause gene function to be either enhanced (activated) or lost (inactivated).

Genes whose function becomes lost or inactivated in carcinogenesis are termed tumour suppressor genes. Both gene copies must be inactivated before the tumour suppressor function is completely lost (i.e. absence of normal protein) so they can be thought of as recessive.

Genes whose function becomes enhanced are termed proto-oncogenes and their mutated form is an oncogene. Proto-oncogenes play an essential role in controlling cell proliferation and encoding growth factors, growth factor receptors, signal transducers, cyto-plasmic regulators, and transcription factors. Oncogenes generally behave in dominant fashion.

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