The Cancer Tree

Read: “The Cancer Tree” by Jeffery P. Townsend in Scientific American, April 2018, Vol. 318, Issue 4. This paper documents important uses of “tree-thinking” that we discussed at the beginning of class to understanding metastatic cancer.
Please address the following:

1) Describe the state of knowledge (prior to 2010) about tumorigenesis and metastasis; what factors began to initiate a change around 2010?

2) Explain what researchers found about the “tree branches” originating from the primary tumor; what did this information tell researchers about the development time of cancer cells?

3) Explain why the cancer researchers are seeing hope in the potential of targeting cancer cells based on their findings from 2010 and after.

4) What was different and “tricky” about applying techniques from evolutionary biology to constructing “tumor” trees in cancer research?

5) Discuss when the first mutation which can be genetically distinguished from normal tissue relative to the diagnosis of cancer.

6) Using one example from this paper, describe how the phenomenon of “regrowth” may evolve in cancer development; what is one suggested strategy to be used in the approach to treatment.

Sample Solution