Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth. In all types of cancer, some of the body's cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Normally, cells in the body follow an orderly path of growth, division, and death. Programmed cell death is called apoptosis, and when this process breaks down, cancer begins to form. Unlike regular cells, cancer cells do not experience programmatic death and instead continue to grow and divide. These extra cells can form a mass called a tumor.


Tumors can be benign or malignant. Tumors that stay in one spot and demonstrate limited growth are generally considered to be benign. Malignant cells are much “nimbler” than non-malignant ones. Malignant cells can pass more easily through smaller gaps, as well as applying a much greater force on their environment compared to other cells. Cells from malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues. They can also break away and spread to other parts of the body. Tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous, and circulatory system, and they can release hormones that alter body function.

Cancer is a genetic disease which is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. Cells can experience uncontrolled growth if there are mutations to DNA, and therefore, alterations to the genes involved in cell division. The genetic changes that contribute to cancer (usually called “drivers” of cancer) tend to affect the following four main types of genes that are responsible for the cell division process:

  • Oncogenes tell cells when to divide
  • Tumor suppressor genes tell cells when not to divide
  • Suicide genes control apoptosis and tell the cell to kill itself if something goes wrong
  • DNA-repair genes instruct a cell to repair damaged DNA

Cancer occurs when a cell's gene mutations make the cell unable to correct DNA damage and unable to commit suicide. Similarly, cancer is a result of mutations that inhibit oncogene and tumor suppressor gene function, leading to uncontrollable cell growth.

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis, resulting in a serious condition that is very difficult to treat. Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is.


Most cancers are initially recognized either because of the appearance of signs or symptoms or through screening. However, a definitive diagnosis requires the examination of a tissue sample via pathology.

The tissue diagnosis from the biopsy indicates the type of cell that is proliferating, its histological grade, genetic abnormalities and other features. Cytogenetics and immunohistochemistry are other types of tissue tests. These tests provide information about molecular changes (such as mutations, fusion genes and numerical chromosome changes).

There are over 200 different types of cancer, and each is classified by the type of cell that is initially affected. Here below, we have the following most recently viewed cancer types covered in our development of diagnostic antibodies:

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