In defense of the somatic mutation theory of cancer Academic Article uri icon


  • According to the somatic mutation theory (SMT), cancer begins with a genetic change in a single cell that passes it on to its progeny, thereby generating a clone of malignant cells. It is strongly supported by observations of leukemias that bear specific chromosome translocations, such as Burkitt's lymphoma, in which a translocation activates the c-myc gene, and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), in which the Philadelphia chromosome causes production of the BCR-ABL oncoprotein. Although the SMT has been modified and extended to encompass tumor suppressor genes, epigenetic inheritance, and tumor progression through accumulation of further mutations, perhaps the strongest validation comes from the successful treatment of certain malignancies with drugs that directly target the product of the mutant gene.

publication date

  • May 2011