CREEC EVOCANThis research project, entitled EVOCAN, aims at improving our understanding of the evolution of natural resistance and susceptibility to cancers.

Assessing natural selection in human populations is challenging. Exploring the rules that govern incidences of cancers in wild species is expected to improve our understanding of how natural selection may have affected human cancer incidence. Specifically, we need to understand the mechanisms underlying the so-called “Peto’s paradox,” which is the absence of a correlation across species between cancer and body size × longevity. Understanding how large, long-lived species—which have a large number of both cells and cell divisions—overcome the burden of cancer can provide critical insight into the identification of processes that prevent carcinogenesis.

The objectives of EvoCan are to understand the evolutionary causes of Peto’s paradox by exploring the relevance of several novel hypotheses, some of which have recently been proposed in a BMC Cancer opinion paper* written by CREEC scientists. The approaches used are descriptive (wild and captive animals), theoretical, and experimental.

*Roche B, Hochberg ME, Caulin AF, Maley CC, Gatenby RA, Misse D & Thomas F (2012) Natural resistance to cancers: a Darwinian hypothesis to explain Peto's paradox. BMC Cancer. 12: 387

Picture: The naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) has a natural resistance to cancer.