Tumor progression is similar in many many ways to evolution (in an abbreviated time scale)

This editorial article [below] comes as no surprise. Many of us were thinking, and saying, and talking about, this phenomenon, … way back in the 1970s. And it is exactly what makes cancer chemotherapy so extremely challenging.

Researchers have long understood that tumors evolve. As they grow, mutations arise and populations of genetically distinct cells emerge. The cells that are resistant to treatment survive and expand. No matter what medication the physicians apply, it seems, the tumor ADAPTS. And it has been difficult for researchers to undo this process, because cancer evolves inside the body over the course of years.

“We used to say to patients all the time that cancers are evolving in a Darwinian manner, but we didn’t have a huge amount of evidence at our disposal to really formally prove that,” says Charles Swanton, cancer researcher at Francis Crick Institute in London. The problem wasn’t the specific mutations, Bardelli (cancer biologist at University of Turin, Italy) realized: it was evolution itself. “Unfortunately, we are facing one of the most powerful forces on this planet––evolution”. This intracellular force has been developed and refined over 3.8 billion years, and oncologists have been trying to do unravel these forces for only the past few decades. It sounds like an unfair fight.

 Nature  2o16;  532: 166–168

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