This article provides an overview of the genes and cellular processes that have emerged recently as new key factors in tumorigenesis. We review these in the context of three broad categories. First, genome-scale sequencing studies have revealed a set of frequently mutated genes in cancer. Genes that are mutated in >5% of all cancers across tissue types are discussed, with a highlighted focus on the two most frequently mutated genes, TP53 and PIK3CA. Second, the mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapy are reviewed. These include acquired resistance under targeted therapy selection owing to mutations and amplification of genes in the same or parallel signaling pathways. Importantly, sequencing of primary tumors has revealed that therapy-resistant clones already exist prior to targeted therapy, demonstrating that tumor heterogeneity in primary tumors confers a mechanism for inherent therapy resistance. Third, "metastasis-specific genes", or rather lack thereof, are discussed. While many genes have been shown to be capable of promoting metastasis in experimental systems, no common genetic alterations have been identified specific to metastatic lesions. Rather, the same gene mutations frequently found in primary tumors are also found prevalent in metastases, suggesting that the genes that drive tumorigenesis may also drive metastasis. In this light, an emerging view of metastatic progression is discussed. Collectively, these recent advances in cancer research have refined our knowledge on cancer etiology and progression but also present challenges that will require innovative new approaches to treat and manage cancer.
Cancer Manag Res (Cancer management and research)
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