It is now well established that cancer is the result of a number of genetic changes within a cell that are needed to alter growth regulation, cell survival, angiogenesis, immune surveillance, and metastatic properties. One of the underlying causes of cancer is mutations in genes that oversee the maintenance and stability of the DNA. Once these genes are mutated, the cells begin to accumulate mutations rapidly, allowing them to ‘evolve’ to the malignant state (see Figure 1).
Understanding the genetics of cancer involves understanding the factors that contribute to mutagenesis and DNA repair (genetic instability), along with understanding the types of mutations that occur and how they contribute to the malignant phenotype. The causes of genetic instability represent excellent targets for prevention of cancer, while the products of the result mutations are excellent targets for novel therapeutics.