Tumor biology

Cancer cells behave as independent cells, growing without control to form tumors. Tumors grow in a series of steps. The first step is hyperplasia, meaning that there are too many cells resulting from uncontrolled cell division. These cells appear normal, but changes have occurred that result in some loss of control of growth. The second step is dysplasia, resulting from further growth, accompanied by abnormal changes to the cells. The third step requires additional changes, which result in cells that are even more abnormal and can now spread over a wider area of tissue. These cells begin to lose their original function; such cells are called anaplastic. At this stage, because the tumor is still contained within its original location (called in situ) and is not invasive, it is not considered malignant - it is potentially malignant. The last step occurs when the cells in the tumor metastasize, which means that they can invade surrounding tissue, including the bloodstream, and spread to other locations. This is the most serious type of tumor, but not all tumors progress to this point. Non-invasive tumors are said to be benign. The discovery of tumor stem cells in a range of cancers has created opportunities for researchers to identify these rare cells in both solid tumors and hematologic cancers, as well as to investigate the role of these cells at different stages of disease.The recognition that the cancer cell is in a symbiotic relationship with the tumor microenvironment has created opportunities to study the interactions of cancer cells within the tumor or the host microenvironment.

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