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Name: Tim H.
Status: Student
Age: 16
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2002

What is the speed of cancer cell division vs. normal cell division (onion cell.)?

Tim, this does not answer your question directly, but it bears on it. It is not so much the speed of cancer cell division, as much as it is the fact that they just do not stop! The majority of the cells in a mature individual are not actively dividing. For example, your heart cells divide until your heart is the right size, and then stop dividing. Some cells will undergo division, to replace injured or worn-out cells, etc. On the other hand, cancerous cells just keep plugging along, like the Energizer bunny, division after division. So the actual rate of division (and I do not know an average rate) is not as important as the fact that they just do not quit.

Paul Mahoney, Ph.D.

Rapidly dividing normal cells and rapidly dividing cancerous cells is about the same. This is NOT what really matter though. Cancer cells are devoid of normal controls on when to STOP dividing. In culture we call it lack of "contact inhibition". In culture when normal cells touch they stop dividing while cancer cell do not and keep going and pile up on each other.

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Science Education
Office of Science
Department of Energy

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