Can you name the most common antigen that cancer cells in general can't live without?

  • $\begingroup$ Are you referring to a certain type of cancer? $\endgroup$ – Arsak Dec 27 '19 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! We encourage you to do some research on your own and then, informed by what you have learned, ask any questions you still have (ideally with references to reliable sources). ——— Thank you for taking the tour, but please also go through the help pages starting with How to Ask questions effectively on this site and edit your question accordingly. Thanks! 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 27 '19 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @tyersome I actually have searched on internet and read books but all the answers wasn't convenient $\endgroup$ – Menna Ashraf Dec 31 '19 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think that you would benefit from making sure your have a firm grasp on the basics of biology. I say this because you appear to not be using the correct terminology (e.g. You seem to think that antigen is a synonym for protein, which is not correct.) This makes your question unclear and creates the impression that you won't have enough background knowledge to understand the answer to your question assuming it was made clear enough to be answerable. ... $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 31 '19 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ I recommend you start your review of biology with a relatively accessible and reliable source like Khan Academy. Wikipedia is also generally a good starting point and you can then check their references. There are also online platforms called MOOCs that offer free (or very low cost) courses on a wide variety of subjects — two that I am familiar with are Coursera and edX. Finally, textbooks with a good level of detail are also freely available online e.g. from NCBI. $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 31 '19 at 20:56

This is a hard question to answer because each type of cancer is a whole different game at the molecular level, however there is something you might be interested in called "hallmarks of cancer" (image 1) which are key features for cancer to thrive. They were originally described by Hanahan and Weinberg (2000) and have been revisited by Fouad and Aanei (2017) in an updated review. The hallmarks of cancer aren't specific genes themselves, but rather broader categories that englobe certain types of genes.

If you want to look at specific genes, we could talk a bit about what more purely data driven approaches have found. There is a very interesting work by Kandoth and collaborators (2013) that presents data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), which is a database of different kinds of genomic features from several different cancer types. Among the results of this work (specifically on figure 2 which I include here as Image 2) you can see a table of 127 significantly mutated genes across 12 different cancer types. One gene that is well known in medical literature for being frequently mutated in almost any cancer type (situation which is also observed in the aformentioned table) is TP53 which encodes a protein that is key for genome maintenance in normal cells by participating in DNA damage and repair (which is a cancer hallmark under the "altered stress response" category). In the table you can also spot tissue-specific cancer genes such as APC in colon/rectum cancer and VHL in renal cell carcinoma.

Just to make sure you can understand the table, the gene names are presented in the right (rows) and the names of the cancer types are presented at the top (columns). The description for the cancer types abbreviations can be found here. To the left of the table there is a functional classification of the genes so you can know more or less what a given gene does in a quick manner. The values presented are simple frequencies (divide the number of samples of a particular cancer type that have the mutation over the total number of samples of that same cancer type) expressed as percentages (so they are already multiplied by 100). The final column (Pan-Cancer) shows the same idea, but taking all samples from all cancer types into consideration for the frequency calculation.

So for answering your question regarding if there is a common feature in all types of cancers: strictly speaking at the gene level no, since even the TP53 mutation which is the most common amongst all cancers might not be present in some cancers; however, looking at it by categories of genes (as one or some of the 7 hallmarks) reveals that all cancers apply similar strategies to thrive (they exhibit different mutated genes, but these genes frequently belong to the same biological pathways and participate in similar functions). I hope you find this useful (:

hallmarks of cancer Image 1: 7 hallmarks of cancer (2017 review).

frequency of mutations

Image 2: frequency of mutation by gene and cancer type.


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This looks like a good answer and you've done a nice job of providing supporting references. However, please include the complete reference information since links can break. One easy way to get that information is to search for the paper on Google Scholar and click on the ‟ symbol to get reference information. This is a good example of how to format references. ... $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 27 '19 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ In addition, since answers here "must be comprehensible without reference to external sources" it would be helpful to insert the figure and table you refer to into your answer Thanks! 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 27 '19 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ oh ok I wasn't sure if pasting the literal image of the resource was ok. I'll modify the answer soon enough $\endgroup$ – MikeKatz45 Dec 27 '19 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ That looks much better! +1 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 27 '19 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much, you're answer really helped me $\endgroup$ – Menna Ashraf Dec 28 '19 at 17:51

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