Table of Contents
The biology of cancer is evidently a broad topic of discussion regarding matters of health. It all takes us back to the cell which is the smallest and most fundamental unit of the body. As a point of emphasis, the elements that t lead to dysfunctions of the cell usually culminate in cancer development and progression. Therefore, this abstract provides a quick capture of what the entire research paper will constitute. To begin with, cancer can be best understood through the application of research questions which then can provide a limelight for other areas such as the methods of research that have been used over time, results, data analysis criteria as well as the conclusions that have been drawn since cancer research began. Specifically, this particular paper will answer the questions:
- What is cancer?
- What are the distinguishing characteristics of cancer?
- What are the mechanisms through which cancer is known to evolve?
- What is metastasis and how is it related to cancer?
- What are the risk factors for cancer?
On the methods, the above questions will be answered through secondary research that has been conducted and stored in various forms. Besides, it is essential to underscore the fact that both qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis will be applicable and the results from the secondary sources will then be used in concluding the biology of cancer as early indicated.
The biology of cancer revolves around the fact that cancer is a class of diseases which are epitomized by abnormal growth of cells or out-of-control cell division and growth. It is equally realizable that there exist more than 100 different types of cancers today with each having varying symptoms depending on the type (Weinberg, 2014). Moreover, cancer is known to harm the body when altered cells divide in an uncontrollable manner forming lumps or masses of tissues commonly referred to as tumors (except for Leukemia which prohibits normal cell formation and functionality in the blood). Such tumors can grow and consequently interfere with the digestive, nervous and the circulatory systems of the body while at the same time releasing hormones which alter significantly normal body functionality. There are two types of cancerous tumors, i.e., benign and malignant. Benign have limited growth, but malignant ones are highly disastrous due to their nature of spread. Thus in this excerpt, more focus will be on the malignant tumors (Burch, 2016). Malignant tumors occur when:
- A cancerous cell moves throughout the body mainly through the blood or lymphatic systems culminating into massive destruction of the healthy tissues in a process referred to as invasion
- A cell manages to divide, grow and make new blood vessels which are then used in feeding the ‘unwanted cell.’
Hence, as a point of departure, this paper will endeavor to explore the above research questions backing the answers with secondary researched evidence and using the analyzed data to make the required conclusions regarding the topic mentioned above.
Methods and data analysis
In this context, the application of the secondary research method is of fundamental significance. Additionally, the secondary research information contains data analyzed through both qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques. Diagrams and tabular representations will be used in this case to simplify the data for easier comprehension (Weinberg, 2014).
From laboratory experiments and observations that have been conducted and recorded on the topic of cancer, this part answers the research questions above.
What are the distinguishing characteristics of cancer?
As illustrated in the above data, cancer can be distinguished through cell observation. The cell observation can be achieved through imaging scans such as Computerized Tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRT) or X-rays (Weinberg, 2014). Through the methods as mentioned above, it is realizable that cancer cells grow and divide at an abnormal rate and speed. Among the other notable characteristics that are associated with them are:
- They are poorly differentiated
- They possess abnormal cell membranes
- They also have cytoskeleton proteins and morphologies
- They have limitless replication potentials (this leads to benign or malignant tumors).
- They tend to evade the immune system
- They are insensitive to anti-growth signals
- They dodge the normal programmed cell death.
What are the mechanisms through which cancer is known to evolve?
Primarily, two critical mechanisms necessitate cancer evolution to lethal levels. They are invasion and metastasis. Cancer metastasis refers to the spread of cancer cells to tissues and organs that were not invaded initially. However, it should be noted that invasion can be described under the metastatic context (Varmus, 2013).
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Thus, metastasis can be classified into three fundamental processes.
The loss of the cell-to-cell adhesion of the cancer cells, allows the malignant tumors cells to disconnect from the primary tumor mass and then change their cell-matrix interactions. This process enables them to invade the surrounding stroma (Varmus, 2013). This is called the invasion process. The process involves the secretion of substances which are essential in degrading the basement membrane, the extracellular matrix as well as the suppression of proteins which are involved in motility and migration control (Burch, 2016).
At this level, the tumor initializes the angiogenesis which if absent will result in the death of the tumor. The blood vessels within the vicinity of the tumor can then provide the required route for the dissociated cancer cells to move into the circulatory system thus metastasizing to distant sites – a process called intravasation(Burch, 2016). Once the cancerous tumor has reached the likely point of intravasation, it embarks on interacting with the endothelial cells by undergoing biochemical interaction processes. It, therefore, develops adhesion to the endothelial cells to create stronger bonds which culminate into a situation where it penetrates the endothelium as well as the basement membranes. This is called the extravasation process of cancer evolution.
What is metastasis and how is it related to cancer?
Metastasis can be described as a process through which cancer cells spread from one organ or tissue to another and proliferate at a new site originally not cancer-affected. Cancer cells especially those that are malignant spread through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system damaging tissues and organs which ultimately lead to death (Braun, 2014). The figure below is an illustration of how metastasis takes place.
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What are the risk factors for cancer?
Cancer has no specific cause. However, there exist numerous predisposing factors which may make an individual vulnerable and in the long run get cancer (Varmus, 2013). Some of the predisposing/risk factors include:
- Hereditary factors especially the DNA constitution in a family set up can be lethal if there is a history of cancer.
- Hormonal imbalances
- Lifestyle and diet
- Exposure to environmental hazards (especially radioactive emissions that release Gamma rays and X-rays).
- Ultraviolet light
- Viruses and bacterial infections
The above factors increase the chances of a person developing cancerous cells which then spread to other parts of the body.
Given that this report is based on secondary researched evidence, it is essential to underscore the fact that according to the American Cancer Society, cancer has been ranked as the second killer disease in the US and it accounts for 1 of every four deaths (Pelengaris, 2013). Additionally, the world health organization (WHO) estimates that there were approximately 14 million new cases of cancer worldwide and an approximated 8.2 million cancer-caused deaths by the year 2012 which is their most recent statistics. Thus, it is important to emphasize that being killer diseases as it is, more caution needs to be exercised especially in matters of lifestyle (Burch, 2016). Additionally, the biology of cancer remains an uncharted field in as far as research is concerned. Scientists need to put more time and effort of the angiogenesis part of the metastatic cells and how they can be stopped from dissociating and later reattaching at new sites because by so doing the world might then bid farewell to the cancer pandemic. As a point of departure, the facts surrounding the biology of cancer are illustrated above and can give a perfect limelight to not only medical students but also all stakeholders in the various health sectors globally (Pelengaris, 2013).
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- Braun, A. C. (2014). The biology of cancer. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., Advanced Book Program.
- Burch, P. R. J. (2016). The Biology of Cancer: A new approach. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
- Pelengaris, S., & Khan, M. (2013). The Molecular Biology of Cancer: A Bridge from Bench to Bedside. Somerset: Wiley.
- Varmus, H., & Weinberg, R. A. (2013). Genes and the biology of cancer. New York: Scientific American Library.
- Weinberg, R. A. (2014). The biology of cancer. New York, NY [u.a.: GS Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group.