Dissecting the mechanisms of cancer has revealed an ever-increasing number of interconnecting pathways that leaves even those in the field dizzy with the effort to keep up. In theory, it's simple. In an ideal world, cell division, survival, and death are in sync, promoting homeostasis with neither unregulated growth nor inappropriate cell loss. However, the real cellular world is laden with oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes whose products interact in overlapping pathways that, when dysfunctional, can lead to cancer.

Despite tremendous progress in unraveling these networks, researchers have their work cut out for them. Daniel Haber, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, explains: "We now have tools and approaches that should make progress even faster, but it's hard to be patient." Patience, however, is the prescription to fully understanding the mechanisms behind transformation of normal cells to cancer cells and perversion of normal tissue into malignant tumors. One...

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