Oncogenes are Mutant Forms of Proto-Oncogenes
Oncogenes arise from the mutation of proto-oncogenes. They resemble proto-oncogenes in that they code for the production of proteins involved in growth control. However, oncogenes code for an altered version (or excessive quantities) of these growth-control proteins, thereby disrupting a cell's growth-signaling pathway.
By producing abnormal versions or quantities of cellular growth-control proteins, oncogenes cause a cell's growth-signaling pathway to become hyperactive. To use a simple metaphor, the growth-control pathway is like the gas pedal of an automobile. The more active the pathway, the faster cells grow and divide. The presence of an oncogene is like having a gas pedal that is stuck to the floorboard, causing the cell to continually grow and divide. A cancer cell may contain one or more oncogenes, which means that one or more components in this pathway will be abnormal.