Navigation Links
Cancer is a result of a default cellular 'safe mode,' physicist proposes

With death rates from cancer have remained largely unchanged over the past 60 years, a physicist is trying to shed more light on the disease with a very different theory of its origin that traces cancer back to the dawn of multicellularity more than a billion years ago.

In this month's special issue of Physics World devoted to the "physics of cancer", Paul Davies, principal investigator at Arizona State University's Center for Convergence of Physical Sciences and Cancer Biology, explains his radical new theory.

Davies was brought in to lead the centre in 2009 having almost no experience in cancer research whatsoever. With a background in theoretical physics and cosmology, he was employed to bring fresh, unbiased eyes to the underlying principles of the disease.

He has since raised questions that are rarely asked by oncologists: thinking about why cancer exists at all and what place it holds in the grand story of life on Earth.

His new theory, drawn together with Charles Lineweaver of the Australian National University, suggests that cancer is a throwback to an ancient genetic "sub-routine" where the mechanisms that usually instruct cells when to multiply and die malfunctions, thus forcing the cells to revert back to a default option that was programmed into their ancestors long ago.

"To use a computer analogy, cancer is like Windows defaulting to 'safe mode' after suffering an insult of some sort," Davies writes.

The result of this malfunction is the start of a cascade of events that we identify as cancer a runaway proliferation of cells that form a tumour, which eventually becomes mobile itself, spreading to other parts of the body and invading and colonizing.

Orthodox explanations suppose that cancer results from an accumulation of random genetic mutations, with the cancer starting from scratch each time it manifests; however, Davies and Lineweaver believe it is caused by a set of genes that have been passed on from our very early ancestors and are "switched on" in the very early stages of an organism's life as cells differentiate into specialist forms.

The pair suggests that the genes that are involved in the early development of the embryo and that are silenced, or switched off, thereafter become inappropriately reactivated in the adult as a result of some sort of trigger or damage, such as chemicals, radiation or inflammation.

"Very roughly, the earlier the embryonic stage, the more basic and ancient will be the genes guiding development, and the more carefully conserved and widely distributed they will be among species," Davies writes.

Several research teams around the world are currently providing experimental evidence that shows the similarities between the expression of genes in a tumour and an embryo, adding weight to Davies and Lineweaver's theory.

Davies makes it clear that radical new thinking is needed; however, just like ageing, he states that cancer cannot generally be cured but can be mitigated, which we can only do when we better understand the disease, and its place in the "great sweep of evolutionary history".


Contact: Joseph Winters
Institute of Physics

Related biology news :

1. Continued research needed on treatment for women with lung cancer who are never smokers
2. TGen and Ventana Medical Systems Inc. join forces to fight cancer
3. National Institutes of Health to fund research probing proteins linked to cancer, diabetes
4. Herding cancer cells to their death
5. No danger of cancer through gene therapy virus
6. An article in Cell reveals a new resistance mechanism to chemotherapy in breast and ovarian cancer
7. Osteoporosis drug stops growth of breast cancer cells, even in resistant tumors
8. Using math to kill cancer cells
9. Gene variants may predict who will benefit from breast cancer prevention drugs
10. Nanotechnology helps track and improve drug action in pancreatic cancer
11. Biomarker identification may lead to new noninvasive test for colorectal cancer detection
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016 Research and ... North America 2016-2020" report to their offering. ... North America to grow at a CAGR of ... been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from ... prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a discussion ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016  The American College of Medical ... Show Executive Magazine as one of the fastest-growing trade ... 25-27 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas ... highest percentage of growth in each of the following categories: ... companies and number of attendees. The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016   ... management and verification solutions, has partnered with ... software solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service Kiosks ... provides products that add functional enhancements to ... provides corporations and venues with an automated ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a leading national childhood cancer ... bioinformatics lab, using ,big data, to advance the pace ... Liz Scott , co-executive director of ALSF and Alex,s ... Washington, D.C. , hosted by Vice President ... pediatric cancer research and awareness. The ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016  Global demand for enzymes is ... 2020 to $7.2 billion.  This market includes enzymes ... products, biofuel production, animal feed, and other markets) ... biocatalysts). Food and beverages will remain the largest ... consumption of products containing enzymes in developing regions.  ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... - BIOREM Inc. (TSX-V: BRM) ("Biorem" or "the Company") announces ... Clean Technology Fund I, LP and Clean Technology Fund ... venture capital funds which together hold approximately 59% of ... as converted basis), that they have entered into an ... in Biorem to TUS Holdings Co. Ltd. ("TUS") ( ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM ... lives through the development of innovative products and services, ... the United States denied its petition to ... of Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 (",540 Patent") are ... by the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus ...
Breaking Biology Technology: