National Cancer Institute
Science Behind the News Understanding Cancer
A drawing of a cell showing a hyperactive growth-control pathway.

Oncogenes Act Like an Accelerator

By producing abnormal versions or quantities of cellular growth-control proteins, oncogenes cause a cell's growth-signaling pathway to become hyperactive. To use a simple metaphor, the growth-control pathway is like the gas pedal of an automobile. The more active the pathway, the faster cells grow and divide. The presence of an oncogene is like having a gas pedal that is stuck to the floorboard, causing the cell to continually grow and divide. A cancer cell may contain one or more oncogenes, which means that one or more components in this pathway will be abnormal.

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