Cancer has ancient origins

8 February 2011

New research published in the journal Physical Biology claims that cancer has ancient origins that can be traced using human DNA.

According to Professor Paul Davies of Arizona State University and Dr Charles Lineweaver of the Australian National University, who are leading the new evolutionary research programme, said that the mechanisms that define cancerous growths are contained within an ancient genetic 'toolkit'.

They claim that cancers could be caused by a simple failure in the switching mechanism that halts cell growth.

As a result of this historical viewpoint, the researchers believe it will be possible to predict cancer proliferation more accurately in the future.

Dr Lineweaver said: "We think that the tumours that develop in cancer patients today take the same form as these simple cellular structures did more than a billion years ago.

"It suggests that cancer is a limited and ultimately predictable adversary."

Cancer has long been known to be an ancient disease, with cases even being uncovered by archaeologists working in the tombs of Ancient Egypt.


1 Davies, Professor Paul and Lineweaver, Dr Charles et al. “Cancer tumors as Metazoa 1.0: tapping genes of ancient ancestors”. Physical Biology. Monday, February 7th 2011.

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