An octogene is a gene in the human body that has the potential to cause cancer. When a tumor is present, these cells mutate and cause the cancer cells to survive and grow. There is usually a stimulus required to activate the oncogenes, including influences from the environment, a viral infection, or mutations that have formed in another gene. Octogenes have been found in many types of human cancer, and cancer treatment usually targets these genes. Through discoveries in molecular biology and genetics, scientists are now able to determine how the changes in cells can prevent and treat cancer.
Cells get their directions on what to do from the nucleus, the center of the cell which contains genes. Genes determine the inherited characteristics of humans, and there are millions of them in the body with 25,000 present in each cell. Some genes are used at one time, and others are used for different purposes, such as making necessary proteins. Besides inheriting physical characteristics from their parents, humans can also inherit the tendency to have the same diseases that are common in their families. As far as cancer is concerned, the some genes develop cancer while others stop the development of this disease.
Sometimes, changes in DNA strands cause mutations or gene defects. A simple mutation can have a major effect on the body. Mutations can cause too much protein or not enough to be produced in a cell. Sometimes hereditary mutations are passed from generation to generation, and these are involved in about five to ten percent of all cancers. So, if a person is born with these gene mutations, they are more likely than a person born without them of developing the disease. Most cancers are cause by mutations that develop during a person’s life, such as exposure to radiation or toxins. These mutations are not in every cell like those of inherited mutations, but they only exist in the cells in the area. Usually, the body automatically repairs these mutations, and if a cell is not able to be repaired, it dies. It is when these mutated cells cannot be repaired and do not die that they can develop into cancer.
Oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes are the two types of genes that affect the development of cancer. Oncogenes are almost always normal genes that have mutated, and they are called proto-oncogenes. Although proto-oncogenes usually control cell division, a mutated one turns into an oncogene and is then a bad gene that can multiply quickly and develop into cancer. Oncogenes grow fast and are out of control. The good news is that as scientists learn more about oncogenes, the medical community is able to target them in cancer treatments.
The human body naturally contains many tumor suppressors that eradicate oncogenes, repair DNA, or slow down cell division. Studying genes has allowed scientists to discover that over half of all human cancers are related to mutations and abnormalities in gene p53. Lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer are all related to this gene. If this gene does not work as it should, cells with mutations in DNA grow and divide, ultimately leading to cancer in many cases.
Genetic testing can tell a person whether or not they have a greater risk for developing cancer. This testing is expensive and not always worthwhile, so it is best to meet with a genetic counselor first to see if genetic testing will work in a person’s particular circumstances. Testing is worth the cost to most people because they can take preventive measures if they find out that that carry certain mutated cells in their bodies. Some women have had both of their breasts removed so that they would not develop the breast cancer that their mother, grandmother, and aunts had. Modern advancements have provided options that past generations did not have, and it is promising that more information will soon be found as well.