Over 500 billion cells in our bodies will be replaced daily, yet natural selection has enabled us to develop defenses against the cellular mutations which could cause cancer. It is this relationship between evolution and the body's fight against cancer which is explored in a new special issue of the Open Access journal Evolutionary Applications.
"Cancer is far from a single well-defined disease which we can identify and eradicate," said Dr Athena Aktipis, Director, Human and Social Evolution, Center for Evolution and Cancer at the University of California, San Francisco. "It is highly diverse and evolutionary theory allows us to consider cancer as a highly complex and evolving ecosystem. This approach can improve the understanding, treatment and prevention of a number of different cancer types."
By applying the principles of evolutionary biology papers in the special issue ask: Why do we get cancer, despite the body's powerful cancer suppression mechanisms? How do evolutionary principles like natural selection, mutation, and genetic drift, work in a cancer ecosystem? How can we use evolutionary theory to minimize the rate of cancers worldwide?
"Nowhere is the diversity of cancer better revealed than the many reasons why we remain vulnerable to it," said Dr Aktipis. "Evolutionary medicine allows us to see explanations for traits that leave organisms vulnerable to disease."
These evolutionary explanations include the role of environmental factors, such as the relationship between tobacco availability and lung cancer; co-evolution with fast evolving pathogens; constraints on what selection can do; trade-offs, such as the capacity for tissue repair vs. risk of cancer; reproductive success at the expense of health; defenses with costs as well as benefits, such as inflammation.
"An evolutionary approach can unite and explain the many avenues of cancer research by allowing us to see cancer as an ecosystem," concluded Dr Aktipis. "Just as a forest depends on the individual characteristics of trees as well as the interactions of each tree with its environment; similarly tumors can be comprised of genetically distinct cells, which depend on both cell-to-cell interactions within the tumor, as well as on the interactions of tumor itself with the body."
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
In a new book, San Francisco-based photographer Susan Middleton captures the curious gestures and expressions of marine invertebrates
Lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio gets Pentagon funding to see if brain waves can direct drone movement
After a severe brain injury, some people remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, unable to speak or move intentionally, and apparently unaware of the world around them. But in recent years, neuroscientists have found signs that some of these patients may still be conscious, at least to a degree. Now researchers have used a branch of mathematics called graph theory to search for neural signatures of consciousness.
Few parasitoids are more bizarre or disturbing than the wasps of the genus Glyptapanteles, whose females inject their eggs into living caterpillars. Once inside, the larvae mature, feeding on the caterpillar’s body fluids before gnawing through its skin en masse and emerging into the light of day. And despite the trauma, not only does the caterpillar survive---initially at least---but the larvae proceed to mind-control it, turning their host into a bodyguard that protects them as they spin their cocoons and finish maturing. Then, finally, the caterpillar starves to death, but only after the tiny wasps emerge from their cocoons and fly away.
From their new book A History of Life in 100 Fossils, Paul Taylor and Aaron O'Dea share the story of 10 incredible fossils
We love origin stories. When we see successful groups of animals and plants, we wonder where they came …
First research of its kind shows that tasers could impair a person's memory and thought process
Sometimes the most fascinating animals are the ones that are no longer with us. The oddly named sthenurine is no exception.
Australian banded stilts use mysterious cues to know when to head toward ephemeral lakes in the country’s otherwise dry interior
The intriguing story of how whale evolution was unpicked is told in The Walking Whales, revealing what it's like to be a globe-trotting palaeontologist