There are numerous distinctions between cancerous and non-cancerous cells. A few of the differences are well-known, while others were uncovered more recently and are less well known. You might be curious about the differences between cancer cells if you’re dealing with your own or a loved one’s cancer.
Discovering how cancer cells differ from normal cells paves the way for researchers to develop treatments that will rid the body of malignant cells without harming healthy cells.
Controlling Cell Growth
Recognizing cancer cells also require a brief description of the proteins in the body that control cell proliferation. Our DNA contains genes, which serve as the roadmap for the body’s protein production. Growth factors, or molecules that instruct cells to divide and develop, are among these proteins. Other proteins act as growth inhibitors.
The aberrant production of proteins can be produced by mutations in specific genes (for example, those generated by cigarette smoke, radiation, UV radiation, and other carcinogens). It’s possible that too many or too few proteins are produced, or that the proteins are aberrant and act differently.
The following are some of the significant differences between normal and cancer cells, which explain why malignant tumours grow and respond to their environment differently than benign tumours:
- Growth Suppressors: Tumour suppressors regulate normal cell growth. Tumour suppressor genes are classified into three types, each of which codes for a protein that inhibits growth. One type instructs cells to slow down and cease dividing. Another type is in charge of repairing modifications in damaged cells. The third type is responsible for the previously mentioned apoptosis. Mutations that arise in any of these tumour suppressor genes being inactivated enable cancer is the abnormal growth unchecked.
- Instability in the Genome: Normal cells have ordinary DNA and chromosome numbers. Cancer cells frequently have an abnormal number of chromosomes, and the DNA becomes progressively abnormal as plenty of other mutations occur. Many of these are driver mutations, which means they cause the cell to become cancerous. Plenty of the mutations is passenger mutations, which means they serve no direct function in the cancer cell.
- Invasion of the immune system: When normal cells are damaged, the immune system (via lymphocytes) recognises and eliminates them.
Cancer cells can circumvent the immune system to form a tumour by evading detection or by releasing chemicals that inhibit the activity of immune cells that respond to situations. Some of the more recent immunotherapy drugs address this facet of cancer cells.
The Overview of Cancer Stem Cells
After going over all of the differences between cancer cells and normal cells, you might be pondering if cancer cells differ from one another. The idea that there can be a hierarchy of cancer cells, with some having distinct activities than others, lies at the core of the above-mentioned discussions on cancer stem cells.
We’re still baffled as to how cancer cells can appear to disappear for years or decades before reappearing. Some believe that cancer stem cells in the cancer cell hierarchy, are more resilient to treatments and have the potential to lie inactive when other cancer cells are killed by treatments like chemotherapy.
Though we presently treat all cancer cells in a tumour as if they were all the same, it’s conceivable that future treatments may take into account some of the differences between cancer cells in a single tumour. Targeted medicines that distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells in their process are being explored, and progress is being made in this area.