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Scientists have come to visualize cancer as species in itself, with its own evolutionary patterns and characteristics. Furthermore, researchers like Henry Heng are realigning how we think about evolution. This podcast presents a fascinating conversation about both and how each informs the other.

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Listen and learn

  • How the importance of genetics in cancer has evolved into the importance chromosome packaging and reshuffling in cancer,
  • Why this means cancer genetics and genomics must focus on the topological arrangement and interactions of genes, and
  • Why our dynamic mechanism for adaption can lead to too much change, resulting in cancer.

Author and Professor Henry Heng is with the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics at Wayne State University School of Medicine. His research centers on how cancer evolution occurs, what is the unique pattern of cancer evolution, and how to develop tangible tools for a cancer biomarker and treatment leading to a greater molecular medicine impact factor. Author of numerous books, including Genome Chaos: Rethinking Genetics, Evolution, and Molecular Medicine, he also presents an intriguing realignment in how many scientists think about evolution. In fact, he uses the nature of cancer evolution as a model to understand how evolution works overall.

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Think about it: cancer is always under attack by our system; it’s always evolving and fighting back and presents an interesting model to understand how competition occurs. For a long time people thought of cancer as a problem of over growth, he says, and tried to find genetic reasons for this overgrowth. But scientists like Heng understand that this was the wrong emphasis.

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Rather than overgrowth, he says, cancer is just another evolutionary system with its own signature. The question is then, rather, what is the overall trend. This leads to an interesting explanation of how nonsexual reproduction, or fission, opens cells up to the kinds of changes that lead to cancer. Cancer is a type of punctuated evolution, a reshuffling resulting from the dynamic mechanism our cells use for successful adaptation: cancer is simply too much change. Listen in for the implication of how this may affect genetics biology and cancer treatments in the future. 

For more about Henry Heng’s work, he suggests his recent books, including Genome Chaos: Rethinking Genetics, Evolution, and Molecular Medicine and Debating Cancer: The Paradox in Cancer Research.

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