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Cancer Discov. 2015 Aug;5(8):806-20. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-15-0439. Epub 2015 Jul 20.

Evolutionary determinants of cancer.

Author information

1
Centre for Evolution and Cancer, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom. mel.greaves@icr.ac.uk.

Abstract

Our understanding of cancer is being transformed by exploring clonal diversity, drug resistance, and causation within an evolutionary framework. The therapeutic resilience of advanced cancer is a consequence of its character as a complex, dynamic, and adaptive ecosystem engendering robustness, underpinned by genetic diversity and epigenetic plasticity. The risk of mutation-driven escape by self-renewing cells is intrinsic to multicellularity but is countered by multiple restraints, facilitating increasing complexity and longevity of species. But our own species has disrupted this historical narrative by rapidly escalating intrinsic risk. Evolutionary principles illuminate these challenges and provide new avenues to explore for more effective control.

SIGNIFICANCE:

Lifetime risk of cancer now approximates to 50% in Western societies. And, despite many advances, the outcome for patients with disseminated disease remains poor, with drug resistance the norm. An evolutionary perspective may provide a clearer understanding of how cancer clones develop robustness and why, for us as a species, risk is now off the scale. And, perhaps, of what we might best do to achieve more effective control.

PMID:
26193902
PMCID:
PMC4539576
DOI:
10.1158/2159-8290.CD-15-0439
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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