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New theory uncovers cancer's deep evolutionary roots
Date:7/12/2013

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A new way to look at cancer -- by tracing its deep evolutionary roots to the dawn of multicellularity more than a billion years ago -- has been proposed by Paul Davies of Arizona State University's Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science in collaboration with Charles Lineweaver of the Australian National University. If their theory is correct, it promises to transform the approach to cancer therapy, and to link the origin of cancer to the origin of life and the developmental processes of embryos.

Davies and Lineweaver are both theoretical physicists and cosmologists with experience in the field of astrobiology -- the search for life beyond Earth. They turned to cancer research only recently, in part because of the creation at Arizona State University of the Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology. The Center is one of twelve established by the National Cancer Institute to encourage physical scientists to lend their insights into tackling cancer.

The new theory challenges the orthodox view that cancer develops anew in each host by a series of chance mutational accidents. Davies and Lineweaver claim that cancer is actually an organized and systematic response to some sort of stress or physical challenge. It might be triggered by a random accident, they say, but thereafter it more or less predictably unfolds.

Their view of cancer is outlined in the article "Exposing cancer's deep evolutionary roots," written by Davies. It appears in a special July issue of Physics World devoted to the physics of cancer.

"We envisage cancer as the execution of an ancient program pre-loaded into the genomes of all cells," says Davies, an Arizona State University Regents Professor. "It is rather like Windows defaulting to 'safe mode' after suffering an insult of some sort." As such, he describes cancer as a throwback to an ancestral phe
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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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