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Arizona Cancer Evolution Center

 January 26

2012

Biodesign Auditorium
727 E. Tyler St. Tempe
AZ 85287

Cancer is widespread among eukaryotes, and can be successfully tackled only by understanding its place in the story of life itself – especially the evolution of multi-cellularity. In this seminar I will propose a new theory of cancer, drawing on insights from astrobiology. The central hypothesis is that cancer is an organized pre-programmed process driven by a cassette of highly conserved, deeply-evolved ancient genes – genes that are active in early-stage embryo development, and which become inappropriately re-awakened in the adult form. In effect, cancer tumors are atavisms, recapitulating an ancient life form – “Metazoa 1.0” – dating back to the dawn of multi-cellularity. This hypothesis differs fundamentally from the popular notion that cancers are deregulated rogue cells running amok, and explains cancer’s well-known robustness and resilience. It also offers a well-defined target for therapy.