Cancer, although a dreadful disease, is at the same time a fascinating biological phenotype. Around 1980, cancer wasfirst attributed to malfunctioning genes and, subsequently, cancer research has become a major area of scientific research supporting the foundations of modern biology to a great extent. To unravel the human genome sequence was one of those extraordinary tasks, which has largely been fuelled by cancer research, and many of the fascinating insights into the genetic circuits that regulate developmental processes have also emerged from research on cancer. Diverse biological disciplines such as cytogenetics, virology, cell biology, classical and molecular genetics, epidemiology, biochemistry, together with the clinical sciences, have closed ranks in their search of how cancer develops and to find remedies to stop the abnormal growth that is characteristic of cancerous cells. In the attempt to establish how, why and when cancer occurs, a plethora of genetic pathways and regulatory circuits have been discovered that are necessary to maintain general cellular functions such as proliferation, differentiation and migration. Alterations of this fine-tuned network of cascades and interactions, due to endogenous failure or to exogenous challenges by environmental factors, may disable any member of such regulatory pathways. This could, for example, induce the death of the affected cell, may mark it for cancerous development or may immediately provide it with a growth advantage within a particular tissue.
Recent developments have seen the merger of basic and clinical science. Of the former, particularly genetics has provided instrumental and analytical tools with which to assess the role of environmental factors in cancer, to refine and enable diagnosis prior to the development of symptoms and to evaluate the prognosis of patients. Hopefully, even better strategies for causal therapy will become available in the future. Merging the basic and clinical science disciplines towards the common goal of fighting cancer, calls for a comprehensive reference source to serve both as a tool to close the language gap between clinical and basic science investigators and as an information platform for the student and the informed layperson alike. Obviously this was an extremely ambitious goal, and the immense progress in the field cannot always be portrayed in line with the latest developments. The aim of the Encyclopedia is to provide the reader with an entrance point to a particular topic. It should be of value to both basic and clinical scientists working in the field of cancer research. Additionally both students and lecturers in the life sciences should benefit highly from this …
PDF file, 1017 pages