Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cancer is influenced by its microenvironment

Recently, there has been an increasing discussion about the role of genes in cancer. The gene-centric view of cancer was reinforced by molecular studies, but this popular conception of the gene as a simple causal agent of cancer is loosing place on the platform of genetic discourse. In fact, cancer is influenced by its microenvironment, yet broader, environmental effects also play a role. Cao et al (Cell 142, 52–64, July 9, 2010) reported that mice living in an enriched housing environment show reduced tumor growth and increased remission. They found this effect in melanoma and colon cancer models, and that it was not caused by physical activity alone. Serum from animals held in an enriched environment (with social and physical activities, joys, etc) inhibited cancer proliferation in vitro. This suggests that the stretch of DNA code for a gene is like a word without a grammar. The environment provides the semantic frame (or grammar) of the organism language.

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