DeGregori's 'Adaptive Oncogenesis' turns evolutionary eye on cancer

IMAGE: James DeGregori’s new book, Adaptive Oncogenesis shows that mutations need help from damaged tissues to cause cancer, and that by keeping our tissues healthy we can reduce cancer risk…. view more 

Credit: University of Colorado Cancer Center

Mutations are necessary for cancer. But in his new book Adaptive Oncogenesis: A New Understanding of How Cancer Evolves Inside Us,” James DeGregori, PhD, shows that mutations need help. The book sees the body as an ecosystem in which populations of cells compete and the cells best adapted to their surroundings survive. Healthy cells are best adapted to live in healthy tissue. But when tissues are damaged – for example, by aging, smoking or sun exposure – cells with cancerous changes may suddenly find themselves best adapted to their surroundings and may become able to out-compete healthy cells.

“This new theory, dubbed Adaptive Oncogenesis, which my lab has been developing for almost 20 years, represents a substantial departure from the current model of cancer causation in which risk factors like smoking or old age cause cancer by increasing the frequency of mutations. We instead propose that mutations may always be present, but the state of the tissue environment is the key


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