Chemicals and Cancer

  • Philip C. Burcham


Cancer is a deadly yet diverse condition featuring the emergence of cell subtypes that escape normal restraints on proliferation, forming cellular masses possessing unstable genomes and aggressive tendencies to invade local tissue or metastasise to remote sites. Since the accumulation of mutations in critical genes typically underpins these harmful capabilities, modern toxicology devotes much effort to identifying chemicals that cause mutations. Particular attention focusses on the mechanisms whereby bioactivation-dependent carcinogens form DNA-reactive metabolites that generate abnormal bases within the genome. Such ‘DNA adducts’ are central to chemical carcinogenesis since they can either generate mutations during processing by DNA polymerases, trigger apoptosis or undergo enzymatic repair. DNA adducts are also useful biomarkers of carcinogen exposure in humans and animals. These concepts are reinforced by studying the toxicology of known human carcinogens (e.g. vinyl chloride, asbestos and aristolochic acid) as well as chemicals with a still unclear role in human cancer (e.g. acrylamide).


Acrylamide Ames test Angiogenesis Asbestos Aristolochic acid Biomarkers Cancer hallmarks Cancer testing Carcinogenesis DNA adducts DNA repair Genotoxicity Mutagenesis Vinyl chloride 

Going Further

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip C. Burcham
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Medicine and PharmacologyThe University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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