Medicine: Advances in the War on Cancer

New research finds promising leads in the genes of tumor cells

What causes nice, healthy, law-abiding cells to go berserk, proliferate wildly and thus produce the phenomenon called cancer? The answer, scientists have long suspected, lies in the genetic material of the cells. Somehow genes, composed of the molecule deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), have been made abnormal, perhaps by such environmental factors as cigarette smoke and radiation.

In recent months, scientists in three fields have made remarkable progress in documenting how these genetic changes take place. Cell geneticists, studying chromosomes, the discrete units into...

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