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Evol Med Public Health. 2014 Oct 15;2014(1):136-45. doi: 10.1093/emph/eou022.

Malignant cancer and invasive placentation: A case for positive pleiotropy between endometrial and malignancy phenotypes.

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1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Systems Biology Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.
2
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Systems Biology Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Systems Biology Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Systems Biology Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA gunter.wagner@yale.edu.

Abstract

Cancer metastasis is an invasive process that involves the transplantation of cells into new environments. Since human placentation is also invasive, hypotheses about a relationship between invasive placentation in eutherian mammals and metastasis have been proposed. The relationship between metastatic cancer and invasive placentation is usually presented in terms of antagonistic pleiotropy. According to this hypothesis, evolution of invasive placentation also established the mechanisms for cancer metastasis. Here, in contrast, we argue that the secondary evolution of less invasive placentation in some mammalian lineages may have resulted in positive pleiotropic effects on cancer survival by lowering malignancy rates. These positive pleiotropic effects would manifest themselves as resistance to cancer cell invasion. To provide a preliminary test of this proposal, we re-analyze data from Priester and Mantel (Occurrence of tumors in domestic animals. Data from 12 United States and Canadian colleges of veterinary medicine. J Natl Cancer Inst 1971; 47: :1333-44) about malignancy rates in cows, horses, cats and dogs. From our analysis we found that equines and bovines, animals with less invasive placentation, have lower rates of metastatic cancer than felines and canines in skin and glandular epithelial cancers as well as connective tissue sarcomas. We conclude that a link between type of placentation and species-specific malignancy rates is more likely related to derived mechanisms that suppress invasion rather than different degrees of fetal placental aggressiveness.

KEYWORDS:

antagonistic pleiotropy; cancer; evolution of malignancy; evolution of placentation

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