Cancer: three important concepts to be aware of

By Juman Hijab

Updated on: August 14, 2021 Original date: July 24, 2020

minute Read

What are the basics?

There are three primary concepts that  underlie all cancerous change. When you grasp those concepts, it is possible to visualize what happens to a colon, brain, or breast cell on its cancerous path. 

Facilitated diffusion

Membrane proteins:

Three types

I will break down the proteins that line cell membranes into three types

Cell membrane proteins (also called membrane receptors) are the primary conduits of stuff and information across membranes. They are the doors and windows into the cytoplasm and the nucleus.

slime mold network

Cell division:

Final common pathway

All cells that divide have to follow a certain pathway.

There are specific steps that have to be followed before a cell goes into division. Part of the steps involves production of key types of proteins that prepare the nuclear and cytoplasmic membranes for cell division.

Reed Sternberg cell

What defines a cancer cell:

Three traits

There are only three attributes to a cancer cell.

Each cancer cell - from cancer-in-situ to metastatic cancer - has to have all three attributes. Otherwise, there is no cancer.


  • Course on Cell Membrane Proteins: How do cells age? In this course, I will describe the three types of membrane proteins. 
  • In future courses, I will describe the final common pathway and the three traits of cancer cells.

Picture credits: 

  1. By Jose Luis Calvo. Shutterstock, ID: 522829411. Multinucleated giant cells. Light micrograph of a giant cell tumour of bone showing giant cells derived from osteoclasts.
  2. By Designua. Shutterstock, ID: 483015559. Facilitated diffusion or facilitated transport or passive-mediated transport. Carrier protein.
  3. By yamaoyaji. Shutterstock ID: 1491569426. Yellow slime mold on fallen leaf.
  4. By David A Litman. Shutterstock, ID: 1012664833. Photomicrograph of a lymph node in a patient with Hodgkin's Disease (lymphoma), showing a Reed Sternberg cell variant.

Juman Hijab

About the author

Juman is a retired physician after having been in clinical practice for more than four decades. Her lifelong interest has been in the chemistry of life.

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