In spite of decades of research, cancer remains an enigma. Conventional wisdom holds that cancer is driven by random mutations that create aberrant cells that run amok in the body.

In a new paper published this week in the journal BioEssays ACE researchers and colleagues challenge this model by proposing that cancer is a type of genetic throwback, that progresses via a series of reversions to ancestral forms of life. In contrast with the conventional model, the distinctive capabilities of cancer cells are not primarily generated by mutations, they claim, but are pre-existent and latent in normal cells.

You can read more from the authors of this paper in the following book chapters:

Lineweaver, C.H. & Davies, P.C.W. ‘Comparison of the atavistic model of cancer to somatic mutation theory: phylostratigraphic analyses support the atavistic model,’ in The Physics of Cancer. Ed. Bernard S. Gerstman. World Scientific (2021).

‘Cancer: The harsh price of multicellularity. By Paul Davies, pp. 252-7. In The Architecture of Hope (third edition). Ed. Charles Jencks. Maggie’s: London, (2021), 252-7.  

‘Cancer as a reversion to an ancestral phenotype,’ with K. J. Bussey in Re-Thinking Cancer. Eds.: Bernhard Strauss, Marta Bertolaso, Ingemar Ernberg, Mina Bissell. MIT Press (2021).