Cancer research meets evolutionary biology

John W. Pepper, C. Scott Findlay, Rees Kassen, Sabrina L. Spencer, Carlo Maley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There is increasing evidence that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provides insights into the etiology and treatment of cancer. On a microscopic scale, neoplastic cells meet the conditions for evolution by Darwinian selection: Cell reproduction with heritable variability that affects cell survival and replication. This suggests that, like other areas of biological and biomedical research, Darwinian theory can provide a general framework for understanding many aspects of cancer, including problems of great clinical importance. With the availability of raw molecular data increasing rapidly, this theory may provide guidance in translating data into understanding and progress. Several conceptual and analytical tools from evolutionary biology can be applied to cancer biology. Two clinical problems may benefit most from the application of Darwinian theory: Neoplastic progression and acquired therapeutic resistance. The Darwinian theory of cancer has especially profound implications for drug development, both in terms of explaining past difficulties, and pointing the way toward new approaches. Because cancer involves complex evolutionary processes, research should incorporate both tractable (simplified) experimental systems, and also longitudinal observational studies of the evolutionary dynamics of cancer in laboratory animals and in human patients. Cancer biology will require new tools to control the evolution of neoplastic cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

evolutionary biology
cancer
Biological Sciences
neoplasms
Research
Neoplasms
drug development
Genetic Selection
etiology
biomedical research
Laboratory Animals
observational studies
natural selection
cell viability
Observational Studies
Reproduction
laboratory animals
Longitudinal Studies
Biomedical Research
Cell Survival

Keywords

  • Acquired drug resistance
  • Cancer progression
  • Drug development
  • Natural selection
  • Neoplasms
  • Somatic evolution
  • Stem cells
  • Transdisciplinary research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

Cite this

Cancer research meets evolutionary biology. / Pepper, John W.; Findlay, C. Scott; Kassen, Rees; Spencer, Sabrina L.; Maley, Carlo.

In: Evolutionary Applications, Vol. 2, No. 1, 02.2009, p. 62-70.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Pepper, JW, Findlay, CS, Kassen, R, Spencer, SL & Maley, C 2009, 'Cancer research meets evolutionary biology', Evolutionary Applications, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 62-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-4571.2008.00063.x
Pepper, John W. ; Findlay, C. Scott ; Kassen, Rees ; Spencer, Sabrina L. ; Maley, Carlo. / Cancer research meets evolutionary biology. In: Evolutionary Applications. 2009 ; Vol. 2, No. 1. pp. 62-70.
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