• Open Access

Neurofibromatosis and lessons for the war on cancer



In the war on cancer, a great deal of attention is being paid to knowing the ‘enemy’. It is widely believed that by understanding the driving forces underlying cancer, researchers can develop better ways to target the disease. Currently, large-scale efforts have been under taken to completely characterize molecular changes in common human cancers (http://cancergenome.nih.gov/) (Collins & Barker, 2007). However, as more is learned about cancer, the debate increases on what exactly the enemy is: cells making up the bulk of the tumour, rare tumour stem cells that can regrow the tumour, tumour microenvironment, the subset of cancer cells with metastatic potential, etc. Studies of the cancers associated with Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) are helping to define the relationship between many of these different cell types. It is still unclear how these different enemies are related to each other and how they interact to wage cancer's war on the patient.

‘If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.’ – Sun Tzu, The Art of War, c. 500 B.C.