PerspectiveCANCER

Cancer origins—genetics rules the day

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Science  05 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6410, pp. 30-31
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav1044

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Summary

A major goal of cancer research is to identify central molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the development of tumors and their response to treatment, with the aim of uncovering key vulnerabilities. Early events in the development of cancer may inform such vulnerabilities (1), but early tumors are much more difficult to observe and study in patients than established tumors. Indeed, one of the hardest issues to resolve in early tumor development is the relative contributions of the oncogenic driver mutations and the nonpathogenic gene networks expressed in a precancerous cell. On page 91 of this issue, Park et al. (2) investigate the mechanisms of development of neuro endocrine cancer in the lung and the prostate using human epithelial cells in culture. They find that these neuroendocrine tumors can arise from non-neuroendocrine epithelial cells, which converge upon reprogramming toward a neuroendocrine fate via a common and specific combination of genetic factors.