Field of Science

Words that need to disappear forever: "Oncogene"

Srsly, what the fuck is an 'oncogene'? Genes involved in cancer DO NOT FORM ANY SORT OF NATURAL CLASS. You can name a gene family based on phylogeny (best), or function (still ok), but involvement in this massive variety of often-unrelated cell-cycle and growth related defects we lump together as 'cancer'? FUCK NO. And "oncoprotein" makes me hurl even farther.

Furthermore, what the flying fuck is a "proto-oncogene"!? A gene that is just poised to cause/inhibit cancer but evolution hasn't allowed it yet?

'Oncogene', 'oncoprotein' and all derivations thereof must be BANNED. There is no value whatsoever to lumping genes into such categories, especially for cancer research. First of all, we have "cancer-related", which has the vague air about it that is justly deserved ('oncogene' sounds so concrete...); second of all, you'd think that something being vaguely involved in cancer somehow must be about the most useless information ever for cancer researchers. Aren't they more interested in how this gene is involved, not that it can somehow participate in this absurdly complicated process ultimately involving the entire fucking cell?

Anyway, my two cents before I run off to a cell physiol exam... aren't you glad you don't have to teach me? =P



    Oncogene AWAYS used to irritate me as well, but that's because I'm a biochemist, and I suspect one of the reasons that your so irritated at it is because of all the taxonomic work you do. And from the point of view of taxonomy, or protein naming, the group doesn't work. It isn't even a *group*, just a crazy name that gets randomly shoved onto a whole variety of proteins.

    For a medic though, it's a very useful term when studying cancerous tissue or the causes of cancer. If you can immediately identify a gene as "Oncogene"=causes cancer when overexpressed, or "Cancer-supressor gene"=causes cancer when switched off, it's a useful way to remember and use the genes.

    Same way that "Things without legs" is not a meaningful phylogeny group, but one of the first things you're likely to mention when describing a newly found animal/space alien/whatever to people.

  2. I've been on board with this effort for years! Theses genes have real functions, you know? They're not just "cancer genes".

    I think the main issue I have isn't with the classification of Oncogenes, but the fact that they're typically referred to as such with no mention of their actual functions.

    Also, I propose that we add "Tumor Suppressor Gene" (also known as "anti-Oncogenes") to the list of words that need to disappear forever.

  3. OMG, you hit the oncogene's twin (also evil), another pet peeve!

    Textbook: "APC is a tumour supressor"

    FUCK YOU NO, APC/C is the Anaphase Promoting Complex, a massive complicated and interestingly-regulated ubiquitination complex that targets various cyclins and other cell cycle regulating proteins for destruction, thereby having a say in whether or not the cell proceeds onwards with the cell cycle. The APC is critical in the mitotic spindle checkpoint, where the activation of MAD2 by the kinetochore sequesters CDC20/FZY, thereby either altering what the APC targets or disabling the entire complex altogether (unlikely) (actually the CDC20 story is a bit different now, apparently); furthermore, APC/C interacts with pRB/RBR and the SCF ubiquitination complex to downregulate p53 (or 51 or whatever it is) /KIP-related protein destruction, thereby decreasing CDKA levels and blocking the cell cycle by prolonging entry to M phase... you get the idea.


    I currently work in plant cell biology and development, and quite enjoy it. Ironically, I hated my development course last term, and don't particularly enjoy cell biol this term either. And I'm not actually a botanist or anything, so it's not hatred of animals so much. Something's off there...

    @ Lab Rat:
    If you can immediately identify a gene as "Oncogene"=causes cancer when overexpressed, or "Cancer-supressor gene"=causes cancer when switched off, it's a useful way to remember and use the genes.

    I'd hope they need a little more information about genes than just that to make use of them!!! Otherwise their field would be in a rather retarded state still...

    And genes fundamentally don't work that way. The interactions are WAAAAY more complex than "turns cancer on/off", and implying anything otherwise is simply degrading and insulting to the field of cell biology.

  4. I would say that "oncogene" is a useful term in exactly the same way as "doesn't taste like lemon" is a useful term. Both indicate features that may be important under certain, very specific circumstances, but are irrelevant for most purposes, and have no useful qualities at all in terms of grouping objectively similar things together.


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