Scientists are finding that at the core of nearly every type of tumor cell, whatever the organ of origin, lies the same terrible flaw.
The flaw afflicts a single gene in the cell, a gene that goes by the humdrum name of p53. So nearly universal is the defect in human tumors that scientists are beginning to suspect that it could be an almost indispensable step in cancerous transformation.
Other genes clearly are mutated in any given cancer. But while some mutations vary from one class of tumor to the next, a blow to the p53 gene could be a common denominator to nearly every malignancy, particularly the most prevalent and deadliest adult tumors.