Although cancer is a disease that will afflict one out of three people in the Western world, when considered at a cellular level, it is a rare clonal event. Long-lived organisms, such as humans, have evolved strategies to restrict the development of potentially malignant cells, and one such mechanism is the coupling of proliferative and apoptotic pathways. Multiple oncogenes have the ability to trigger apoptosis when expressed in an inappropriate fashion, and this is thought to restrict tumour formation by eliminating potentially malignant cells that have acquired a mutation stimulating proliferation. Hence for a tumour to arise, in addition to mutations that drive proliferation, mutations that prevent apoptosis are also a prerequisite.
- © 2003 The Biochemical Society