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The (R)evolution of Cancer Genetics

Jun 21st 2010

In the latest issue of BMC Biology Dr. Francesa Cicarelli has written a commentary on study done by Dr. Tomislav Domazet-Lošo of the RBI and Dr. Diethard Tautz of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology. The commentary is entitled (R)evolution in the genetics of tumor diseases. Dr. Cicarelli of the European Institute for Oncology comments on the study of the Croatian-German team and points to the importance and far-reaching implications of their scientific results. She further expresses the opinion that a systems level approache used by Dr. Domazet-Lošo and Dr. Tautz using their genomic phylostratigraphy method gives rise to new hope in understanding the genetics of cancer.

The (R)evolution of Cancer Genetics

Tumor genetics has undergone a crisis in identity as recently sequenced tumor genomes have shown that unpredictable mutations and complexity result in tumors. From this mass of data it is difficult to determine which exact mutations are responsible for the onset of disease. Dr. Domazet-Lošo and Dr. Tautz in their article published in BMC Biology approach the problem from an evolutionary and systems level perspective are able to bring to light principles otherwise difficult to define.

This study for the first time and in an innovative way, binds the fields of tumor biology, genomics and evolutionary theory on the rise of multicellularity. Particularly interesting is the discovery that the sequence of mutations which lead to tumor formation is identical to the sequence in which these genes arose through evolution. This discovery points in the direction of where future studies may aid in our understanding of tumorigenesis. Primitive animals such as sea sponges and corals are a repository of information on how these processes began and such data may provide clues to the discovery of novel means of treating cancer.

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