Medical miracles abound, yet cancer continues to be a complex and challenging problem. "Cancer" is actually a generic, catchall term for the malignant tumors that are found in well over a hundred different diseases, but the basic concept is simple enough--a gene goes wrong and a tumor grows. Unfortunately, the reality is more complicated, involving an intricate sequence of phenomena and interactions in just a handful of the body's tens-of-trillions of cells. And therein lies the problem for researchers and physicians: once that handful of cells has multiplied to form a detectable mass, or one that directly results in symptoms such as pain or bleeding, it is frequently too late for effective intervention. Cancer diagnostics research is therefore focused on early discovery and identification of cancerous cells.

Fundamentally, cancer is a genetic problem that is either inherited or developed during an individual's lifetime, and cancer biologists have identified many of...

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