New theory turns cancer on its head

July 15, 2014

A new theory of how cancer works could lead to the next generation of treatments of the disease.

The theory suggests that cancer forms when recently evolved genes are damaged, and cells have to revert to using older, inappropriate genetic pathways. August issue of BioEssays Download Full Image

Astrobiologists Charley Lineweaver from The Australian National University and Paul Davies with Arizona State University's Beyond Center teamed up with oncologist Mark Vincent from the University of Western Ontario to develop the new model.

The research is published in the August issue of BioEssays.

“The rapid proliferation of cancer cells is an ancient, default capability that became regulated during the evolution of multicellularity about a billion years ago,” said Lineweaver, who is the study’s lead author. “Our model suggests that cancer progression is the accumulation of damage to the more recently acquired genes. Without the regulation of these recent genes, cell physiology reverts to earlier programs, such as unregulated cell proliferation.”

In 2012, about 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred globally, yet an underlying cause of the many forms of the disease has not yet been identified. To understand the disease better, the team turned to the wealth of knowledge being revealed in the genome sequences from a large range of our distant relatives, including fish, corals and sponges.

This new knowledge has allowed scientists to establish the order in which genes evolved, and is also the basis of the new therapeutic implications of the model, said Lineweaver.

“The adaptive immune system that humans have has evolved relatively recently, and it seems cancer cells do not have the ability to talk to and be protected by it. The new therapeutic strategies we are proposing target these weaknesses,” he said. “These strategies are very different from current therapies, which attack cancer’s strength – its ability to proliferate rapidly.”

Davies says the new model will not provide an overnight cure. “It is a work in progress, but we think it gives a more consistent interpretation of what is currently known about cancer than other models do,” he said.

Lineweaver says that his research in astrobiology led him to look at cancer.

“Paul and I have always been interested in trying to answer big questions. This led us to astrobiology and trying to answer the question ‘Are we alone?’ To answer that, you need to know about how life got started and evolved on this planet, and that involves understanding the evolution of multicellularity. That is an obviously missing piece from our current models of cancer.”

A video summary of the research can be viewed here.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU News

(480) 965-9657

Arizona Republic panel to discuss child immigration crisis

July 15, 2014

Five veteran journalists from The Arizona Republic will explore issues surrounding the child immigration crisis during a special online panel discussion at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University next week.

The Cronkite School is partnering with The Arizona Republic to host “Reporters on the Ground: The Child Immigration Crisis” from noon to 1 p.m., July 23. The online, interactive discussion features Arizona Republic staff who contributed to a weeklong series of stories examining the recent wave of unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the United States. Download Full Image

The event will be streamed live online on’s home page. The public is encouraged to participate in the discussion at or on Twitter, using the hashtag #immigrantchildren.

Republic opinion writer Linda Valdez will moderate the conversation, featuring reporters Bob Ortega and Daniel Gonzalez, and photographers Michael Chow and David Wallace. The panelists will share their experiences covering the crisis.

As part of the in-depth series “Pipeline of Children,” the Republic sent reporters and photographers to Central America and the U.S. border from Texas to Nogales, Arizona, to share the stories of children hoping to escape violence and bleak futures in search of a better life.

According to The Arizona Republic, approximately 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended in the U.S. in the past eight months – already 18,000 more than in 2013. More than 70 percent are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, three of the countries with the highest murder rates in the world.

“We’re excited to partner with The Arizona Republic to host this discussion,” said Kristin Gilger, Cronkite School associate dean. “At the Cronkite School, we teach coverage of immigration and border issues as part of our Latino specialization, so this is an important topic for us, as it is for all Arizonans.”

The Republic project also includes a story written and reported by Cronkite student Emilie Eaton, who was part of a depth reporting class this spring that traveled to Chiapas, Mexico. The Cronkite Borderlands Initiative, supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Adelaida and Barry Severson, offers students multimedia depth reporting training and the opportunity to learn about critical immigration and border issues.

“Reporters on the Ground: The Child Immigration Crisis” is presented by The Arizona Republic and the Cronkite School in partnership with Valle del Sol, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Valley Leadership.

To view The Republic’s “Pipeline of Children” series and learn more about the ongoing immigration crisis, visit

Reporter , ASU News