In recent decades we have been given insight into the process that transforms a normal cell into a malignant cancer cell. It has been recognised that malignant transformation occurs through successive mutations in specific cellular genes, leading to the activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. The further study of these genes has generated much of its excitement from the convergence of experiments addressing the genetic basis of cancer, together with cellular pathways that normally control important cellular regulatory programmes. In the present review the context in which oncogenes such as proliferation, cell death/apoptosis, differentiation and senescence will be described, as well as how these cellular programmes become deregulated in cancer due to mutations.
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