An oncogene is a gene that has the potential to cause cancer. In tumor cells, they are often mutated or expressed at high levels. An oncogene is a gene found in the chromosomes of tumor cells whose activation is associated with the initial and continuing conversion of normal cells into cancer cells.
Most normal cells undergo a programmed form of death (apoptosis). Activated oncogenes can cause those cells that ought to die to survive and proliferate instead. Most oncogenes require an additional step, such as mutations in another gene, or environmental factors, such as viral infection, to cause cancer. Since the 1970s, dozens of oncogenes have been identified in human cancer. Many cancer drugs target the proteins encoded by oncogenes.
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