Impact of risk factors on early cancer evolution


Recent identification of oncogenic cells within healthy tissues and the prevalence of indolent cancers found incidentally at autopsies reveal a greater complexity in tumor initiation than previously appreciated. The human body contains roughly 40 trillion cells of 200 different types that are organized within a complex three-dimensional matrix, necessitating exquisite mechanisms to restrain aberrant outgrowth of malignant cells that have the capacity to kill the host. Understanding how this defense is overcome to trigger tumorigenesis and why cancer is so extraordinarily rare at the cellular level is vital to future prevention therapies. In this review, we discuss how early initiated cells are protected from further tumorigenesis and the non-mutagenic pathways by which cancer risk factors promote tumor growth. By nature, the absence of permanent genomic alterations potentially renders these tumor-promoting mechanisms clinically targetable. Finally, we consider existing strategies for early cancer interception with perspectives on the next steps for molecular cancer prevention.

Journal details

Journal Cell
Volume 186
Issue number 8
Pages 1541-1563
Available online
Publication date