- Cancer is an adaptation that selects in animals against energy dissipation
- Medical Hypotheses
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS)
As cancer usually follows reproduction, it is generally assumed that cancer does not select. Graham has however argued that juvenile cancer, which precedes reproduction, could during evolution have implemented a “cancer selection” that resulted in novel traits that suppress this juvenile cancer; an example is protection against UV sunlight-induced cancer, required for the emergence of terrestrial animals from the sea. We modify the cancer selection mechanism to the posited “cancer adaptation” mechanism, in which juvenile mortality is enhanced through the diminished care received by juveniles from their (grand) parents when these suffer from cancer in old age.
Moreover, it is posited that the cancer adaptation selects against germline “dissipative genes”, genes that result in enhanced free energy dissipation. Cancer’s progression is interpreted as a cascade at increasing scale of repeated amplification of energy dissipation, a cascade involving heat shock, the Warburg effect, the cytokine IL-6, tumours, and hypermetabolism. Disturbance of any physiological process must enhance energy dissipation if the animal remains functioning normally, what explains multicausality, why “everything gives you cancer”.
The hypothesis thus comprises two newly invoked partial processes—diminished (grand) parental care and dissipation amplification—and results in a “selection against enhanced energy dissipation” which gives during evolution the benefit of energy conservation. Due to this benefit, cancer would essentially be an adaptation, and not a genetic disease, as assumed in the “somatic mutation theory”. Cancer by somatic mutations is only a side process.
The cancer adaptation hypothesis is substantiated by (1) cancer’s extancy, (2) the failure of the somatic mutation theory, (3) cancer’s initiation by a high temperature, (4) the interpretation of cancer’s progression as a thermal process, and (5) the interpretation of tumours as organs that implement thermogenesis. The hypothesis could in principle be verified by monitoring in a population over several generations (1) the presence of dissipative genes, (2) the incidence of cancer, and (3) the beneficial effect of dissipative gene removal by cancer on starvation/famine survival.
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