In principle, an oncogene is a cellular gene (proto-oncogene) that is dysfunctional, due to mutation and fusion with another gene or overexpression. Generally, oncogenes are viewed as deregulating cell proliferation or suppressing apoptosis in driving cancer. The cancer stem cell theory states that most, if not all, cancers are a hierarchy of cells that arises from a transformed tissue-specific stem cell. These normal counterparts generate various cell types of a tissue, which adds a new dimension to how oncogenes might lead to the anarchic behavior of cancer cells. It is that stem cells, such as hematopoietic stem cells, replenish mature cell types to meet the demands of an organism. Some oncogenes appear to deregulate this homeostatic process by restricting leukemia stem cells to a single cell lineage. This review examines whether cancer is a legacy of stem cells that lose their inherent versatility, the extent that proto-oncogenes play a role in cell lineage determination, and the role that epigenetic events play in regulating cell fate and tumorigenesis.
- lineage determination
- stem cells