Feb 1st, 2013 by The Editors
The Jan 2013 Special Issue of Evolutionary Applications about cancer has two review articles on how evolutionary principles can advance cancer research. They offer somewhat different, but complementary visions of how applications of principles from evoluitonary biology can advance cancer research. They are open access and can be downloaded by clicking the titles below.
Frédéric Thomas, Daniel Fisher, Philippe Fort, Jean-Pierre Marie, Simon Daoust, Benjamin Roche, Christoph Grunau, Céline Cosseau, Guillaume Mitta, Stephen Baghdiguian, François Rousset, Patrice Lassus, Eric Assenat, Damien Grégoire, Dorothée Missé, Alexander Lorz, Frédérique Billy, William Vainchenker, François Delhommeau, Serge Koscielny, Raphael Itzykson, Ruoping Tang, Fanny Fava, Annabelle Ballesta, Thomas Lepoutre, Liliana Krasinska, Vjekoslav Dulic, Peggy Raynaud, Philippe Blache, Corinne Quittau-Prevostel, Emmanuel Vignal, Hélène Trauchessec, Benoit Perthame, Jean Clairambault, Vitali Volpert, Eric Solary, Urszula Hibner and Michael E. Hochberg
Abstract: Since the mid 1970s, cancer has been described as a process of Darwinian evolution, with somatic cellular selection and evolution being the fundamental processes leading to malignancy and its many manifestations (neoangiogenesis, evasion of the immune system, metastasis, and resistance to therapies). Historically, little attention has been placed on applications of evolutionary biology to understanding and controlling neoplastic progression and to prevent therapeutic failures. This is now beginning to change, and there is a growing international interest in the interface between cancer and evolutionary biology. The objective of this introduction is first to describe the basic ideas and concepts linking evolutionary biology to cancer. We then present four major fronts where the evolutionary perspective is most developed, namely laboratory and clinical models, mathematical models, databases, and techniques and assays. Finally, we discuss several of the most promising challenges and future prospects in this interdisciplinary research direction in the war against cancer.
Abstract: New applications of evolutionary biology are transforming our understanding of cancer. The articles in this special issue provide many specific examples, such as microorganisms inducing cancers, the significance of within-tumor heterogeneity, and the possibility that lower dose chemotherapy may sometimes promote longer survival. Underlying these specific advances is a large-scale transformation, as cancer research incorporates evolutionary methods into its toolkit, and asks new evolutionary questions about why we are vulnerable to cancer. Evolution explains why cancer exists at all, how neoplasms grow, why cancer is remarkably rare, and why it occurs despite powerful cancer suppression mechanisms. Cancer exists because of somatic selection; mutations in somatic cells result in some dividing faster than others, in some cases generating neoplasms. Neoplasms grow, or do not, in complex cellular ecosystems. Cancer is relatively rare because of natural selection; our genomes were derived disproportionally from individuals with effective mechanisms for suppressing cancer. Cancer occurs nonetheless for the same six evolutionary reasons that explain why we remain vulnerable to other diseases. These four principles—cancers evolve by somatic selection, neoplasms grow in complex ecosystems, natural selection has shaped powerful cancer defenses, and the limitations of those defenses have evolutionary explanations—provide a foundation for understanding, preventing, and treating cancer.