Cancer can teach us about our own evolution | Paul Davies | Comment is free | The Guardian

A fascinating and short article capturing some of the cellular and evolutionary aspects of cancer, and how cancer is an evolutionary throwback to earlier, single-celled organisms. Others are more qualified to comment on the merits of this hypothesis and treatment applications. Quote:

Charles Lineweaver, of the Australian National University, and I [Paul Davies] have proposed a theory of cancer based on its ancient evolutionary roots. We think that as cancer progresses in the body it reverses, in a speeded-up manner, the arrow of evolutionary time. Increasing deregulation prompts cancer cells to revert to ever earlier genetic pathways that recapitulate successively earlier ancestral life styles. We predict that the various hallmarks of cancer progression will systematically correlate with the activation of progressively older ancestral genes. The most advanced and malignant cancers recreate aspects of life on Earth before a billion years ago.

Cancer can teach us about our own evolution | Paul Davies | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Update: The detailed takedown of this theory, provided by the ever reliable Explorable, can be found below:

Scientists shouldn’t be looking for optimism, they should be searching for the truth, which is sometimes going to be grim. So what if the ‘internal Darwinism’ model implies an intimidating number of possibilities? It is what it is. Every cancer is different, every cancer is complicated, and waving your hands and pretending that there is an ancestrally-derived unity of mechanisms under every single cancer doesn’t make it so. Davies and Lineweaver are going to have to do better than parading decades-old evolutionary misconceptions at me to persuade me of their case.

Aaargh! Physicists! Again!


8 thoughts on “Cancer can teach us about our own evolution | Paul Davies | Comment is free | The Guardian

      • You were ready to buy it because it was in the newspaper, and now you are ready to drop it because somebody ridiculed it. The lesson for you is that you are gullible. Time to back-track on everything these clowns taught you and think with critical independence: Evolution is a horrible scam that has duped too many people.

      • Please be more temperate in your language and read more carefully what I said. I invited comment from the people who understand the science; that is what I got from Explorable. This is not a debate between evolution and alternate theories, it is what our understanding of evolution signifies for our understanding of cancer. Critical independence applies to all, those who believe in evolution, and those who do not. I will not accept any more comments unless more respectful language is used.

      • Au contraire, Mack, in fact an understanding of evolution has led to some rather interesting advances in how we might use chemotherapy, in a preclinical model. You see, when resistant clones evolve, they might have an advantage in the presence of very high doses of chemotherapeutic agents, but this comes with increased energy expenditure. Robert Gatenby’s group has done some work showing how you can significantly prolong disease progression and delay the development of resistant clones by using chemotherapy to stabilize the tumour and allowing non-resistant clones to keep resistant clones in check. Paper here

        I personally work on finding epigenetic driver changes that are required specifically by cancer cells to survive, and again regularly employ artificial evolution to whittle down the ability of cells to maintain DNA methylation to see which ones are enriched, along these lines

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