Biology of colorectal cancer

9 Apr 2015
Francisco Arvelo, Felipe Sojo, Carlos Cotte

Colorectal cancer is a serious health problem, a challenge for research, and a model for studying the molecular mechanisms involved in its development. According to its incidence, this pathology manifests itself in three forms: family, hereditary, and most commonly sporadic, apparently not associated with any hereditary or familial factor. For the types having inheritance patterns and a family predisposition, the tumours develop through defined stages ranging from adenomatous lesions to the manifestation of a malignant tumour. It has been established that environmental and hereditary factors contribute to the development of colorectal cancer, as indicated by the accumulation of mutations in oncogenes, genes which suppress and repair DNA, signaling the existence of various pathways through which the appearance of tumours may occur. In the case of the suppressive and mutating tracks, these are characterised by genetic disorders related to the phenotypical changes of the morphological progression sequence in the adenoma/carcinoma. Moreover, alternate pathways through mutation in BRAF and KRAS genes are associated with the progression of polyps to cancer. This review surveys the research done at the cellular and molecular level aimed at finding specific alternative therapeutic targets for fighting colorectal cancer.