Body development requires the ability to control cell proliferation and metabolism, together with selective 'invasive' cell migration for organogenesis. These requirements are shared with cancer. Human height-associated loci have been recently identified by genome-wide SNP-association studies. Strikingly, most of the more than 100 genes found associated to height appear linked to neoplastic growth, and impose a higher risk for cancer. Height-associated genes drive the HH/PTCH and BMP/TGFβ pathways, with p53, c-Myc, ERα, HNF4A and SMADs as central network nodes. Genetic analysis of body-size-affecting diseases and evidence from genetically-modified animals support this model. The finding that cancer is deeply linked to normal, body-plan master genes may profoundly affect current paradigms on tumor development.
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