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Connecting aging and cancer through the lens of evolution
Published on January 30, 2022 38 min
A selection of talks on Cancer
Hello everyone, I'm James DeGregori. I'm a professor at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and I'll be talking about how we can connect aging and cancer through the lens of evolution and how this alternative understanding of the formation of cancers can be beneficial to both prevention and treatment.
One thing that most of us will appreciate is that about 90 percent of cancers develop after the age of 50. The real question is why?
For the conventional point of view, and probably the view that you've read about in your textbooks this is really requires time, cell divisions, exposures such as from smoking and our underlying genetics and all of these different factors basically contribute to one major causative factor and that is mutations. The conventional point of view holds that it's the mutations that drive cancers and there's
been this classic understanding of cancer evolution for the last 50 or plus years whereby cancer arises by clonal selection. We start with an initiating mutation, what we would call an oncogenic mutation, it happens in a single cell shown here in red and this will then lead to the expansion of that clone because that mutation is thought to confer some advantage to the cell relative to its peers. After that clone expands, you're going to increase the odds of the next mutation which is shown with a little green quadrant which then provides a further advantage allowing that clone to competitively expand even beyond the initial red clone and so forth. From this understanding we can appreciate how a cancer can accumulate multiple mutations within the same clone that provide the different characteristics or what we call phenotypes of the cancer, and it's these characteristics of the cancer that of course cause so much damage and death to humans.