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Is cancer a breakdown of multicellularity?

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Science  29 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6396, pp. 1391
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6396.1391

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Summary

A decade ago, a radical theory of cancer emerged: that this plague of multicellular organisms arises when multicellularity breaks down, and cells start acting as if they were on their own. Recently computational cancer biologists examined gene expression in seven types of solid cancers and traced the ancestry of the active genes they found. Genes that date all the way back to single-celled organisms were revved up. In contrast, genes unique to animals had gone quiet. In cancer, gene-crippling mutations, particularly in genes that interact with both ancient and younger genes, can cause those constraints to break down, so uncontrolled growth occurs. Some of those cancer-driving genes have so many links to other genes that cancer treatments, which usually target just one connection, have limited effects, they proposed.