Different types of cancers may have a common mechanism behind their development with an "on and off" epigenetic switch, a new study reveals.
Epigenetics is the phenomena whereby genetically identical cells express their genes differently, resulting in different physical traits.
The current paradigm states that cancer develops from environmental and genetic changes to cancer progenitor cells. These changes are the result of mutations, exposure to toxic substances or hormonal imbalances.
Cancer progression is extremely complex, however. It also is well known that new mutations and the activation of more cancer causing genes occur throughout the development and progression of cancer.
Sibaji Sarkar, PhD, instructor of medicine at BUSM and the articles corresponding author, said if they believe that everything in nature occurs in an organized fashion, then it is logical to assume that cancer development cannot be as disorganized as it may seem.
He said that there should be a general mechanism that initiates cancer progression from predisposed progenitor cells, which likely involves epigenetic changes.
The existence of this epigenetic switch is indirectly supported by the fact that tumors develop through different stages. When cells rapidly grow during cancer progression, they become stuck in their current stage of development and their cell characteristics do not change.
This is the reason that there are so many types of leukemia-the characteristics that a leukemia cell possesses when it begins to rapidly grow and expand are the characteristics that it will keep until the rapid growth stops.
The researches have been published in Anticancer Research and Epigenomics.