In 2002, Robert Weinberg and Douglas Hanahan published a review article in the journal Cell titled “The Hallmarks of Cancer”. It was a seminal paper in every sense of the word; downloaded 20,000 times a year between 2004 and 2007, with over 15,000 citations in other research papers.
Why is this paper so important? Cancer, as we know by now, is an incredibly complicated disease. Weinberg and Hanahan simplified it to six underlying principles. The hugely complex beast that is cancer, so diverse that even the same organ can have many different tumor types, was reduced to just six common traits that every single cancer shares, to facilitate that transformation from a normal cell to a cancer cell. It answers the ‘how does cancer happen’ question very elegantly, and we gain insight into all the different things that go wrong in a cancer cell.
In 2011, Weinberg and Hanahan updated their list by proposing four more new Hallmarks of Cancer, in another Cell paper titled “The Hallmarks of Cancer: The Next Generation”.
Over the coming weeks, I will go through each of these hallmarks in detail, explaining the processes behind each one. By demystifying what cancer is, and how it arises, I hope in some way to alleviate the terror that this word can inspire; a ‘know thy enemy’ of sorts, if you will. I will also be around, as always, to answer any questions that come up during the discussion.
Hallmarks of Cancer 1: Self Sufficiency in Growth Signals
Hallmarks of Cancer 2: Insensitivity to Antigrowth Signals
Hallmarks of Cancer 3: Evading Apoptosis
The gorgeous image below is a composite from a time-lapse of a HeLa cell (cervical cancer) undergoing cell division. Cellular structures have been visualized using cyan (cell membrane) and red (DNA).