The Burzynski Clinic understands that at the root of all forms of cancer is genetic mutation. Each cell contains many different genes that control how it functions and makes proteins. When a gene becomes damaged, it can lead to drastic changes within the cell. The cell may lose its ability to regulate how it multiplies and divides. This can result in many cells all containing the same mutation. Or, the mutation may occur as genes are trying to repair damage to DNA and miss some errors. These mutations, along with others, can lead to the development of cancer, explains a representative of the Burzynski Clinic.
Sometimes people are born with genetic mutations, while other times they are spontaneously caused by the body or from outside sources. There are three main types of genes that are typically linked to cancer development:
Oncogenes are responsible for cell growth. They tell cells when to multiply. This is necessary to repair damage to tissue, muscle, organs, and other parts of the body. If these genes become mutated, they can lead to uncontrollable growth. As the altered gene continues to multiply, it can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors.
2. Tumor Suppressor Genes
Each cell also has tumor suppressor genes. These genes identify when a cell is growing uncontrollably and activate to stop it. The Burzynski Clinic points out that when these genes become damaged, they may lose this ability. Then the cell has nothing to stop it from continuing to grow. Tumor suppressor genes can not only stop the multiplication of cells with damaged genes, they can actually cause them to self-destruct. This process is known as apoptosis.
“Researchers are looking into the possibilities that apoptosis holds,” says a representative of the Burzynski Clinic. “If they can target ways to get cancerous cells to destroy themselves, it may lead to more effective methods of treatment.”
Some well-known tumor suppressor genes include p53, BRCA1, BRCA2, APC, and RB1.
3. DNA Repair Genes
As cells divide, they replicate their DNA. There is always the risk that mistakes may occur and the DNA will become altered. However, DNA repair genes move in to correct these errors. The Burzynski Clinic explains that when these genes become mutated, they are unable to effectively correct errors. As the DNA continues to replicate, these mistakes are copied as well.
Researchers have found that many forms of cancer are the result of multiple gene mutations. The exact number may vary from type to type. Having a single mutation does not necessarily mean that someone will develop cancer. The Burzynski Clinic is now a participating clinical site for Foundation Medicine to gain approval for a Next Generation Sequencing Panel that would allow them to identify specific genes responsible for causing various types of cancer. Hopefully this test will one day be part of the standard-of-care.
There is no single cause of genetic mutations that leads to cancer. In fact, researchers have identified several different causes. While people have a certain level of control over some of these factors, others are beyond their control.
- Inherited mutations
Genes come in pairs. One half comes from a person’s mother, the other half from their father. If these gene cells are mutated, the mutation is present in all of the cells in a person’s body. If only one half – the egg or the sperm – is mutated, this is often what leads to genetic disorders.
- Acquired mutations
Throughout the course of a person’s life their genes may become damaged. This can occur as a result of their body making a mistake during cell division, or from environmental factors. Ultraviolet light and carcinogens are both associated with the development of genetic mutations that can lead to cancer. People often develop cancer later on in life because their body has had more time to acquire different mutations. This is not always the case, however, as there are many children who are battling cancer. Acquired mutations, also known as somatic mutations, are not passed on from parents to their children. These mutations are only present in some cells of the body and not all of them.
The Burzynski Clinic notes that some recognized risk factors for developing cancer include age, family history, chronic health conditions, lifestyle choices, and environment. People can help to reduce their risk by remaining proactive in their health. Refraining from smoking, eating a well-balanced diet, protecting skin from the sun, and limiting alcohol consumption can all lead to better health.
Scientists do not yet know exactly why some genes become mutated and others do not. But they do know that cancer results from abnormal genes. There is much research going on involving the study of genes, their role in cancer, and how to create more effective treatment methods. The Burzynski Clinic has become very involved in genomic analysis and the use of gene-targeted therapy in cancer treatment.