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Int J Mol Epidemiol Genet 2010;1(2):124-133.

Review Article
Towards a more functional concept of causality in cancer research

Eiliv Lund, Vanessa Dumeaux

Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway

Received December 21, 2009, accepted March 2, 2010, available online: March 15, 2010

Abstract: Advances in molecular technologies challenge the different concepts of causality in biology, epidemiology and
multistage mathematical models. The lack of integration of the different aspects of causality into a common framework could
postpone our attempts to build a human causal model of carcinogenesis. We present here some aspects of differences in
methodology, terminology and traditions between the scientific disciplines and propose a research strategy using functional
analyses of the transcriptome and epigenetics to illuminate causality in complex biological systems.  Overcoming the
challenges of biological material collection suitable for such analyses into a prospective design, this could give unique
opportunities for verification of mechanistic information from basic biological research in a human model system. The ultimate
goal is to obtain a dynamic causal description of the different carcinogenesis stages. The success of this novel approach
depends on the biological relationship between the gene expression of the somatic driver mutations or co-expressed genes in
tumours and the gene expressions mirrored in peripheral blood along the different stages of carcinogenesis. The use of gene
expression profiles and epigenetics could produce a functional concept of causality to explain the human multistage
carcinogenic process.  (IJMEG912004).

Key words: Causality, transcriptomic, epigenetics, carcinogenesis, epidemiology, multistage models

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Address all correspondence to:
Eiliv Lund, PhD
Institute of Community Medicine
University of Tromsø
9037 Tromsø
Norway.
Tel: +47 91144064
Fax: +47 77644831
E-mail:
eiliv.lund@uit.no