PerspectiveWildlife Cancer

Cancer cell evolution through the ages

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Science  02 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6452, pp. 440-441
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay2859

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Summary

The essential ingredients for evolution are variation, inheritance, selection, and time. Like all of life, cells within human bodies can evolve, because dividing cells accumulate many somatic mutations with age, some of which benefit their survival or reproduction. However, cellular evolution is constrained by the death of the host. But what if somatic cells could outlive their hosts by escaping to another host? On page 464 of this issue, Baez-Ortega et al. (1) document the remarkable odyssey of the canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) using DNA exome sequencing of 546 CTVT samples from dogs throughout the world. This ancient tumor has been sexually transmitted between dogs for ∼6000 years, indicating that there is no inherent limit on the number of mammalian cell divisions.

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