‘No man, even under torture, can say exactly what a tumour is.’
J. Ewing, 1916
What exactly is cancer? Can we capture its biological essence in a few words or a phrase? For the ancient Greeks, it was a manifestation of black bile, or constitutional melancholy. The common understanding today is that it reflects renegade, mutant cells proliferating out of control, with a potentially lethal consequence: a territorial hijack of essential, normal tissue functions. Continue reading
Evolution by natural selection is the foundation law of biology. So we shouldn’t be surprised that it has great relevance to cancer.
‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’
Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973
Almost 40 years ago, Peter Nowell first championed the idea that cancer is, fundamentally, a process of somatic cell evolution 1. Since then, the concept has been validated and elaborated, such that the striking parallels with Darwinian speciation by natural selection in ecosystems have been highlighted on many occasions 2,3,4. Continue reading