The evolution of cancer "seems to be different from the evolution of a grasshopper, for instance, in part because the cancer genome is not a stable genome like that of other species. The challenging question is, what has it become?" Vincent said in an interview. "Duesberg's argument from karyotype is different from my argument from the definition of a species, but it is consistent."
Vincent noted that there are three known transmissible cancers, including devil facial tumor disease, a "parasitic cancer" that attacks and kills Tasmanian devils. It is transmitted from one animal to another by a whole cancer cell. A similar parasitic cancer, canine transmissible venereal tumor, is transmitted between dogs via a single cancer cell that has a genome dating from the time when dogs were first domesticated. A third transmissible cancer was found in hamsters.
"Cancer has become a successful parasite," Vincent said.
Mutation theory vs. aneuploidy
Duesbeg's arguments derive from his controversial proposal that the reigning theory of cancer that tumors begin when a handful of mutated genes send a cell into uncontrolled growth is wrong. He argues, instead, that carcinogenesis is initiated by a disruption of the chromosomes, which leads to duplicates, deletions, breaks and other chromosomal damage that alter the balance of tens of thousands of genes. The result is a cell with totally new traits that is, a new phenotype.
"I think Duesberg is correct by criticizing mutation theory, which sustains a billion-dollar drug industry focused on blocking these mutations," said Vincent, a medical oncologist. "Yet very, very few cancers have been cured by targeted drug therapy, and even if a drug helps a patient survive six or nine more months, cancer cells often find a way around it."
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley