Sunday, September 28, 2008

Neoplasms: More on Tumor Speciation

As I've noted yesterday, my book Neoplasms: principles of development and diversity was published last week.

The full table of contents is available. As indicated yesterday, the book is divided into three parts: tumor speciation, tumor classification, and tumor eradication. By tackling these three major areas, we can start answering long-held questions of tumor biology.

Tumor Speciation is the process that restrains neoplastic development to a finite set of biological types. We are taught that neoplasms are caused by mutations that lead to uncontrolled growth and genetic instability. We are also taught that the genetic instability in cancer cells leads to the progressive accumulation of additional mutations. If this is the fundamental mechanism of carcinogenesis, would you not expect a near-infinite number of cancers resulting from all of the possible different combinations of observed mutations?

The harsh realm of neoplasms is much like the realm of living terrestrial organisms. The world is composed of unique, individual life forms. Somehow, every unique life form belongs to one species from among a finite number of species. The squirrels in your backyard may all look alike, at first glance, but each squirrel has a unique genome and a unique personality. Each squirrel is a life form that has never before appeared on earth and that will never appear on earth again; nevertheless, each squirrel is an unmistakable member of the squirrel species. Every squirrel shares features in common with other squirrels and lacks features that are found in other animal species. Every neoplasm is unique, with a unique set of genomic and epigenomic variations that can distinguish one tumor from every other tumor. Why do we encounter certain types of tumors with the same morphology, occurring in different people? The shared morphologic and biological features among types of tumors allows us to examine any unique tumor under a microscope and say with complete certainty that the tumor is a testicular seminoma, or a Warthin tumor of salivary gland, or a pilomatrixoma of skin, or any one of the thousands of distinctive species of neoplasms? Why is it that even though humans are different from every other animal, tumors found in fish and rodents may look and behave very much like specific types of tumors found in humans?

Before we can start thinking about how to classify tumors, we need to understand why every unique tumor must belong to one of several thousand species of tumor. This topic is discussed in Part I of Neoplasms.

In the next few days, I will continue to discuss content from Neoplasms in my blogs.

-Jules Berman

Key words: tumors, tumour, neoplasms, neoplasia, carcinogenesis, tumor development, cancer research, neoplastic development, precancer preneoplasia, preneoplastic

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