The Evolution & Medicine Review

I’d just like to draw everyone’s attention to a very nicely written essay on evolution and cancer by Joshua Schiffman, in Mel Greaves’ Darwin Cancer Blog. It is titled “Lessons from cancer risk in animals” and results from collaborative research with Carlo Maley. Schiffman draws from comparative work throughout the animal kingdom and takes inspiration from research on dogs, which are extremely inbred and have breed-dependent high rates of cancer; and elephants, which have multiple (up to 40) copies of the “guardian of the genome” gene TP53, that might explain Peto’s paradox which pondered why large animals – like elephants – with consequent large reservoirs of actively dividing stem cells, nevertheless enjoyed great cancer-free longevity. Schiffman directly compares these examples with the phenomenon of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome in humans – an inherited defect of one of the TP53 genes which leads to a 100% lifetime risk of cancer or multiple cancers. Photo credit for the “jumbo” picture goes to Joshua.