1. National Center for Immunobiologicals Research and Evaluation, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, Rome 00161, Italy.
2. Istituto di Biologia, Medicina molecolare e Nanobiotecnologie (IBMN) CNR, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.
Cancer has been in existence longer than human beings, and man has been facing the illness ever since he made his appearance on Earth. Amazingly, the first human cancer gene was cloned only thirty years ago. This, and other extraordinary scientific goals achieved by molecular cancer research in the last 30 years, seems to suggest that definitive answers and solutions to this severe disease have been finally found. This was not the case, as cancer still remains to be defeated. To do so, cancer must be first understood.
This review highlights how cancer onset and progression has been tackled from ancient times to present day. Old theories and achievements have provided the pillars of cancer understanding, in laying the basis of 'modern era' cancer research, are discussed. The review highlights the discovery of oncogenes and suppressor tumor genes, underlining the crucial role of these achievements in cancer diagnosis and therapies. Finally, an overview of how the modern technologies have given impetuous to expedite these goals is also considered.
Keywords: Cancer theories, oncogenes, genomics.