Nearly all types of cancers are caused by abnormalities in the genetic material of the transformed cells, making error-correction methods fail and giving those cells new properties, such as hyperactive growth and division. As these transformed cells loose the respect for normal tissue boundaries, they can invade in adjacent tissues and sometimes spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood. Especially those metastases may be life threatening.
Alterations in genes of cancer cells may be due to the effects of radiation, tobacco smoke, chemicals, infectious agents, alcohol abuse or unhealthy nutrition. Other cancer-promoting genetic abnormalities are inherited (5-10%), and thus present in all cells from birth on.
Every year, there are 11 million new cases of cancer diagnosed worldwide and over 7.9 million cases of death from cancer. Experts are projecting annual cancer deaths to increase to 16 million by 2030. (source: WHO, 2007)
In order to develop novel, more effective methods of diagnosis and treatment, scientists of the NGFN investigate the basic mechanisms of cancer and then transfer those achievements to clinical applications. They identify biomarkers for better and earlier diagnosis as well as targets for new therapeutic approaches to reverse the negative effects of the transformations in the cancer cells.