Professor Robert Weinberg discusses how cancer cells have to learn how to avoid the process of programmed cell death known as apoptosis carried out in normal cells.
Just as signals regulate cell growth and division, signals control cell death. Cancers can result from cells that do not die when they should.
Robert Weinberg, Ph.D., Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research:
“Cancer cells have to learn how to avoid the process of programmed cell death – suicide – otherwise known as apoptosis.”
A cell may die because it is damaged or old. Once a cell is signaled to die, the cell makes proteases and enzymes that degrade its components. The DNA in the nucleus is fragmented, the cell membrane shrinks, and, eventually, a neighboring cell engulfs the cellular remains.
In 2000, Douglas Hanahan (shown below) and Robert Weinberg published a paper in Cell, "The Hallmarks of Cancer," which identified some organizing principles of cancer cell development.
“A fundamental property of multi-cellular organisms is the capability to commit suicide or undergo apoptosis, which is a form of programmed cell death. And it is evident that this is another check and balance on aberrant tissues, so that early on in the development of many cancers one can see prominent induction of apoptosis, which we imagine to be a form of protection for the organism. The cells are proliferating aberrantly and they therefore commit suicide for the common good.”
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Professor Douglas Hanahan explains that a fundamental property of multi-cellular organisms is the capability to have cells commit suicide or undergo apoptosis, which is a form of programmed cell death.
Professor Robert Weinberg explains how normal cells can only double a certain limited number of times; and cancer cells have to learn how to proliferate indefinitely, i.e, they have to become immortalized.
Professor Douglas Hanahan discusses how cancers kill you, in general, not just because they grow into a large lump, but because they invade into normal tissues and disrupt the functions of those tissues.
Professor Douglas Hanahan discusses how cancer cells require a source of nutrients and oxygen, which is supplied through new blood vessel growth – the process of angiogenesis, which is critical for almost all cancers.