When normal cell to a cancer cell: take 5 minutes to get the picture.
More than 60 thousand billion cells make up the human body.
They are the units that form the tissues which make up our organs like the liver, heart and lungs.
When the body needs it, our cells split into two and replace those cells that are defective or have come to the end of their life span.
This makes it possible for our tissues to preserve their shape and their respective functions with the passage of time.
Every cell is therefore programmed to multiply and die.
This order but complex program is controlled by the center of the cell, the nucleus which contains chromosomes, containing many genes made up of DNA.
Sometimes, some of these genes undergo a change.
The nucleus then sends out abnormal orders and the cell goes wrong.
It multiplies uncontrollably and takes on a life of its own.
Each new cell produced contains the same defect.
The cells proliferate chaotically and form a tumor.
This process may be short but is often long.
Ten to thirty years may separate the birth of a first abnormal cell from the appearance of a tumor of about one cubic centimeter.
The tumor forms many blood vessels in order to survive.
These will supply the tumor with oxygen and nutriments allowing it to live and grow.
This is what we call the phenomenon of angiogenesis.
The tumor however only really becomes dangerous when the cancer cells begin to invade through the vessels into the adjacent areas and spread to the surrounding organs.
These cells can then invade other parts of the body, multiply and produce new tumors.
Metastasis is the term used for this spreading process.
But why does a cell become cancerous?
There are many factors and they can exist to different degrees.
Factors have been identified such as hereditary genetic anomalies, exposure to some viruses, HIV, Hepatitis B, C and D, papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, exposure to toxic agents, chemical products, radiation, sun, unhealthy behaviors such as the consumption of alcohol and tobacco or a diet too rich and fat and low in fruit and vegetables.
Today, over 25 million people in the world live with cancer.
7 million die from it each year.
The disease represents the leading cause of mortality for those under 65.
Lung cancer is the most widespread followed by breast cancer, colorectal, stomach and prostate cancer.
The means to combat cancer do however exist.
These often complementary treatments are used alone or in combination according to the type of cancer and its status.
The goal of the treatments is to make it possible to eliminate the tumor and cure the patient in early stage cancer or like a chronic disease to control its development.
There are mainly three kinds of treatment.
Surgery consists of removing the tumor in part or in its entirety.
Radiotherapy exposes the tumor to radioactive laser which prevent the disease cells from multiply and destroys them.
Chemotherapy consists of administering systemic medicinal substances to destroy the cancerous cells or prevent them from spreading.
Chemotherapy and radio therapy packed on cancerous cells but also on healthy cells which explains their side effects.
But today, better knowledge of the characteristics of cancer cells makes it possible to develop therapies that target the cancer development mechanisms more specifically.
Sanofi-aventis R & D is already present in all these areas to fight against cancer on all fronts.