CEM Seminar- Carlo Maley

What Elephants and Evolution Have To Teach Us About Cancer, Carlo C. Maley

Associate Professor Director of the Center for Evolution and Cancer, 
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, 
University of California, San Francisco
What elephants and evolution have to teach us about cancer
 
 
Cancers are dramatic examples of multi-level selection. Because cancers can damage and kill their hosts, there has been selection at the organismal level to suppress cancer. However, natural selection at the cellular level generates cancer. I will illustrate these two levels of selection with two stories from our research. I will first tell the story of our investigations into why elephants and whales don’t get more cancer than humans, even though they have 100X to 1000X more cells than us. I will then discuss why it has been so hard to develop biomarkers that predict whether a benign tumor will become cancerous and whether a malignant tumor will kill a patient. I will show that measures of evolution and ecology can provide better biomarkers that should be universally applicable across all types of cancers.