Darwin and Cancer

By Jeremy Manier

One of the interesting riddles of evolution is how single-celled organisms became integrated into larger communities of cells, finally resulting in cumbersome creatures like us. But sometimes even we get glimpses of what life before the multi-cellular era might have looked like.

When cancer develops, the affected cells abandon the body’s well-regulated union and revert to form as freelancers. They become single cells with ravenous needs. Genetic mutations make those cells ditch polite conventions, like having the courtesy to self-destruct when they collect too many harmful changes. Immortal and more prolific than the surrounding cells, they gain an advantage and start undermining the body’s essential functions.

Here’s Dr. Ezra Cohen, a specialist in head and neck cancer here, explaining how Darwinian principles aid the study of cancer.

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