Causes of Cancer
The great majority (>95%) of human cancers are caused by somatic mutations in a few specific genes (called "Oncogenes".
Several sexually transmitted papilloma viruses cause cervical cancer in women. A vaccine has been developed which inhibits infection by these cancer-causing papilloma viruses.
Malignant cancers are invasive (loss of control of cell crawling). Benign tumors are not (yet!) invasive, but may become so.
Metastasis is transfer of cancer cells from one part of the body to another by breaking free into the lymph or blood (or coelom, or rarely, urine!)
Once cancer cells have begun to metastasize, then it is very much less possible to remove them all surgically. (Thus, the great importance of early detection)
[Except for lymphoma, etc. which are metastatic very early]
Abnormalities of Cancer Cells1) Glucose uptake is much higher than normal in most cancer cells.
Related to this is an abnormally (very) large secretion of lactic acid, and abnormally low amounts of ATP production by mitochondria. This set of inter-related abnormalities was discovered around 1930 by Warburg, who had won the Nobel Prize for previous discoveries, and is one of two (unrelated) phenomena both called "The Warburg Effect". Excess glucose uptake into cancer cells is the reason why PET scans can detect cancer, and reliably distinguish cancer cells from normal cells. I have had several PET scans myself, and they accurately mapped the tumors. They cost about three thousand dollars per scan.
The biochemical cause of these phenomena remains unknown, and very little research has been done on it, because it doesn't fit in with oncogene research. The best English language textbook on cancer biology doesn't even mention the Warburg effect. Almost no research has been done about how to kill cancer cells based on either their anaerobic metabolism, or the excess uptake of glucose. (Despite very large amounts of research on how to use the phenomenon to map tumors).
2) Magnetic Resonance Images of cancer cells are visibly different than normal tissues.
3) The acto-myosin cytoskeleton of cancer cells is disorganized, and they exert much weaker traction forces as they crawl.
4) Cancer cells can crawl onto less adhesive substrata,
from more adhesive substrata. This is a loss of haptotaxis.
5) Defective cell-cycle checkpoint controls.
6) Excessive inhibition of apoptosis.
When a human b-lymphocyte has this particular chromosome translocation, it makes bcl-2 protein instead of antibody, and can't undergo programmed cell death. Although such lymphocytes don't grow or divide any faster than normal lymphocytes, they do accumulate without limit. Eventually, they displace your normal lymphocytes and fill up your bone marrow, until you become anemic, can't make antibodies etc. and die.
7) Lack of anchorage dependence, the ability of cells to survive
and continue dividing without being spread out on a solid substratum.
8) Increased secretion of proteolytic enzymes
9) Loss of differentiated characteristics ("tumor progression")
How to Cure Cancer: The key goal is selective poisoning.Killing just those cells that have certain properties.
Examples of what is now available: (I was treated with the underlined ones)
Daunorubicin intercalates between DNA base pairs
DNA base analogs get covalently incorporated into DNA
Vincristine Binds to tubulin; prevents microtubule formation
Taxol Binds to tubulin; stimulates abnormal microtubule polymerization
Rituximab A monoclonal antibody against all B-lymphocytes. This was one of the first monoclonal antibodies used for cancer treatment. Many others have subsequently been developed.
Gleevec Inhibits an over-active tyrosine phosphokinase
QUOTE: (from 2015) "A year's supply of Gleevec (imatinib), a leukemia drug, costs about $159 to make [a year's supply, including a profit margin] , but the yearly price tag is $106,322 in the U.S. and $31,867 in the U.K. A generic version costs about $8,000 in Brazil. ...more than a million cancer patients around the world meet criteria for taking the five TKI pills. "Very few of them are being treated now," he says, because the drugs are so expensive. And the implications stretch way beyond these specific cancer drugs. Overall prices for cancer medications have been going up at a fast clip. Dr. Peter B. Bach of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York has documented a nearly 100-fold increase in cancer drug prices since 1965 after adjusting for inflation." (QUOTED)
X-Ray irradiation (Minutes per day Mon., Tues., Wed., Thus., Fri. for several weeks)