There are many factors that can alter cellular functions, such as genetic mutations or environmental factors. These alterations may have an important impact on cell function and could eventually result in the development of cancer.
The dysregulation or disruption of cell division is one common alteration to cellular processes. Normal cell division occurs in controlled, orderly fashion. Cancer cells disrupt this process and cause cells to divide in an uncontrolled manner, leading to tumor formation. The dysregulation may be due to mutations or environmental factors, such as radiation exposure or chemical carcinogens.
Apoptosis (or programmed cell death) is another frequent alteration of cellular processes. As a way to kill abnormal and damaged cells, apoptosis occurs naturally in healthy cells. Apoptosis can be inhibited in cancer cells. This allows the cells to keep dividing, and form tumors.
These cellular changes can be combined with many others. Changes in metabolism can alter the cells’ ability to produce and consume energy. Genetic mutations can be caused by changes in the DNA repair mechanism, which can increase the risk of developing cancerous genetic mutations.
It’s important to note that alterations in cellular processes don’t always lead to disease. There are many mechanisms within the body to protect and correct these alterations. Cellular alterations may lead to disease if these mechanisms are not working or overwhelmed.
Effective treatments for cancer require understanding the cellular changes that occur. Research can identify the pathways and other mechanisms involved in cancer cell growth to create drugs or therapies that target that disease, while keeping side effects low for healthy cells.