Chromosome translocations and cancer

Published on September 30, 2015 Reviewed on September 5, 2023   45 min

Other Talks in the Series: Cancer Genetics

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I am Felix Mitelman at the University of Lund, in Sweden. And my lecture will be on the role played by chromosome translocations in cancer development. I will also briefly discuss the clinical significance of translocations as diagnostic and prognostic tools in the management of cancer patients. And finally, I will present some remaining questions as to how, when and why the aberrations are formed.
But first, a historical background as an introduction. And an appropriate starting point is 100 years ago in 1914, when Theodor Boveri in this famous book, in English, on the origin of cancer presented a conceptually new idea, which later became known as the somatic mutation theory of cancer.
Boveri proposed that cancer originates in a single cell by mitotic disturbances resulting in chromosome aberrations. Through subsequent cell divisions, this acquired genetic change is propagated to all daughter cells. And as a consequence, all cells in a cancer carry the genetic abnormality that initiated this process. This remarkably prescient idea still today remains the paradigmatic view of cancer pathogenesis supported by a wealth of experimental evidence. But it long remained a theoretical idea, which could not be examined critically until technical improvements in human cytogenetics were made half a century later, and led to the description in 1956