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The Genetics of Cancer

Posted 6/23/2016

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  It's time for another semi-geeky blog. If science truly makes your eyes glaze over, you can skip this right now. If, however, it is fascinating or interesting or informative or important--or all of the above--this is important stuff. The more we understand about cancer, the better able we are to discuss our situation with our doctors, to read articles, to feel a bit more in control of what is happening.

  Cancer research is increasingly about genes. Since the whole human genome was processed, scientists have been developing targeted therapies that attack a unique part of a cancer cell. The more we can understand about all of this, the better we can talk to our doctors and read the articles and feel a little more in control.

  This is an excellent, not too dense, article from ASCO's CancerNet about genes and cancer:

The Genetics of Cancer

About genes

Genes are found in the DNA in each cell that makes up your body. They control how the cell functions, including how quickly it grows, how often it divides, and how long it lives. Researchers estimate that there are 30,000 different genes in each cell.

Genes are located on 46 chromosomes, which are arranged in two sets of 23 chromosomes. You inherit one set of chromosomes from your mother and one set from your father. One chromosome in each set of 23 determines whether you are female or male. The other 22 chromosome pairs, called autosomes, determine your other physical characteristics.

Genes control how your cells work by making proteins that have specific functions and act as messengers for the cell. Therefore, each gene must have the correct instructions or "code" for making its protein. This is so the protein can perform the correct function for the cell. All cancers begin when one or more genes in a cell are mutated, or changed. This creates an abnormal protein or no protein at all. An abnormal protein provides different information than a normal protein, which can cause cells to multiply uncontrollably and become cancerous.


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