Activated proto-onc genes: sufficient or necessary for cancer?

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Science  10 May 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4700, pp. 669-677
DOI: 10.1126/science.3992240


Proto-onc genes are normal cellular genes that are related to the transforming (onc) genes of retroviruses. Because of this relationship these genes are now widely believed to be potential cancer genes. In some tumors, proto-onc genes are mutated or expressed more than in normal cells. Under these conditions, proto-onc genes are hypothesized to be active cancer genes in one of two possible ways: The one gene-one cancer hypothesis suggests that one activated proto-onc gene is sufficient to cause cancer. The multigene-one cancer hypothesis suggests that an activated proto-onc gene is a necessary but not a sufficient cause of cancer. However, mutated or transcriptionally activated proto-onc genes are not consistently associated with the tumors in which they are occasionally found and do not transform primary cells. Further, no set of an activated proto-onc gene and a complementary cancer gene with transforming function has yet been isolated from a tumor. Thus, there is still no proof that activated proto-onc genes are sufficient or even necessary to cause cancer.