Cancer Pathophysiology

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

Cancer has a complex Pathophysiology. Pathologists are physicians who are concerned primarily with the study of disease in all its aspects. This includes cause of the disease, diagnosis, how the disease develops (pathogenesis), mechanism and natural course of the disease. They also deal with biochemical features, progression, and prognosis or outcome of the disease.

Pathology of cancers and other complex disorders have undergone a sea change after development of technologies like immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry, and molecular biologic approaches to cancer diagnosis.

Genetic changes

In normal cells, genes regulate growth, maturity and death of the cells. Genetic changes can occur at many levels. There could be a gain or loss of entire chromosomes or a single point mutation affecting a single DNA nucleotide.

There are two broad categories of genes which are affected by these change:

  • Oncogenes – these are cancer causing genes. They may be normal genes which are expressed at inappropriately high levels in patients with cancers or they may be altered or changed normal genes due to mutation. In both cases these genes lead to cancerous changes in the tissues.
  • Tumor suppressor genes – these genes normally inhibit cell division and prevent survival of cells that have damaged DNA. In patients with cancer these tumor suppressor genes are often disabled. This is caused by cancer-promoting genetic changes. Typically, changes in many genes are required to transform a normal cell into a cancer cell.

Genomic amplification

Sometimes there may be genomic amplification. Here a cell gains many copies (often 20 or more) of a small chromosomal locus, usually containing one or more oncogenes and adjacent genetic material.

Point mutations

Point mutations occur at single nucleotides. There may be deletions, and insertions especially at the promoter region of the gene. This changes the protein coded for by the particular gene. Disruption of a single gene may also result from integration of genomic material from a DNA virus or retrovirus. This may lead to formation of Oncogenes.


Translocation is yet another process when two separate chromosomal regions become abnormally fused, often at a characteristic location. A common example is Philadelphia chromosome, or translocation of chromosomes 9 and 22, which occurs in chronic myelogenous leukaemia, and results in production of the BCR-abl fusion protein, an oncogenic tyrosine kinase.


A tumor in latin means a swelling but not all swellings are tumors in the modern sense of the term. Some of them may be caused due to inflammation, infections, cysts or fluid filled lesions or due to benign growths. A cancerous tumor has the capacity to grow rapidly and to metastasize or spread to other tissues. Some tumors like leukemias grow as cell suspensions but most grow as solid masses of tissue.

Solid tumor parts

Solid tumors have two distinct parts. One of them is the parenchyma that contains cancer tissues and cells and the other is the stroma that the neoplastic cells induce and in which they are dispersed.

Tumors that originate from epithelial cells have a basal lamina that separates clumps of tumor cells from stroma. However, the basal lamina is often incomplete, especially at points of tumor invasion. The stroma is juxtaposed between malignant cells and normal host tissues and is essential for tumor growth. The stroma contains nonmalignant supporting tissue and includes connective tissue, blood vessels, and, very often, inflammatory cells. All solid tumors require stroma if they are to grow beyond a minimal size of 1 to 2 mm.

In addition, tumors that are cancerous also have the property of new blood vessel formation. Blood vessels are only one component of tumor stroma. In fact, in many tumors, the bulk of stroma comprises interstitial connective tissue, and blood vessels are only a minor component of the stromal mass. The stroma also contains tissues and cells from blood including water and plasma proteins, together with various types and numbers of inflammatory cells. There are in addition proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans, interstitial collagens (types I, III, and, to a lesser extent, type V), fibrin, fibronectin, fibroblasts etc.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2019

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2019, April 24). Cancer Pathophysiology. News-Medical. Retrieved on June 14, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Cancer Pathophysiology". News-Medical. 14 June 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Cancer Pathophysiology". News-Medical. (accessed June 14, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2019. Cancer Pathophysiology. News-Medical, viewed 14 June 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
AI-powered liquid biopsy shows promise in early detection of lung cancer