Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancer types worldwide and accounts for approximately 600,000 deaths annually. Work over the last decades has uncovered a number of tumor-suppressor and oncogenes which are frequently mutated and might thus be responsible for the malignant transformation. However, only with the development of new high-throughput technologies systematic analyses of the genome and epigenomes became feasible. While data generation has increased exponential, we are now faced with new challenges to transform these data into useful models that help predicting the outcome of genomic aberrations and to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. As a basis for the modeling it is essential to understand and integrate current knowledge. We review previous and current ideas in colorectal cancer development and focus on a pathway oriented view. We show that colorectal cancer is a multilayer complex disease affecting the genome as well as the epigenome with direct consequences on the gene and microRNA (miRNA) expression signatures. The goal is to illustrate the current principles of colorectal cancer pathogenesis and to illustrate the need for elaborate computer modeling systems.
Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.