Did you know that elephants are amazingly resistant to cancer? This is surprising considering how long they live and how large their bodies are.
“One of the expectations is that when you have a really big body. Your cancer burden will increase because larger objects have more cells,” biologist Vincent Lynch, Ph .D., Assistant professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Buffalo College of Science and the Arts.
“The fact that this is not true between species – a long-standing paradox in evolutionary medicine and cancer biology – indicates that evolution has found ways to reduce cancer risk.”
Lynch and his team investigated what the cause of these large mammals’ evolution was.
“We have discovered how elephants and their living and extinct relatives evolve to be anti-cancer,” Lynch added.
“We have previous research on TP53, a well-known tumor inhibitor. This time we said, “Let’s just see if the elephant’s entire genome includes more copies of tumor suppressors than you’d expect.” Is the trend general? Or is the trend specific to a gene? We found that to be general: Elephants have lots and lots of additional copies of tumor suppressor genes, and all of them probably contribute a bit to cancer resistance. “
What the researchers found was nothing extraordinary. As it turns out, elephants contain additional copies of tumor suppressor genes. The genome has several unique copies that may also contribute to tumor suppression.
Now, scientists are looking to see how their findings might contribute to cancer prevention or treatment in humans.
Dr. Juan Manuel Vazquez, a partner of Lynch, said: “By identifying how large, long-lived species evolved to stop cancer. We can learn something new about how evolution works and hopefully find ways to use that knowledge to inspire new cancer treatments”, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley.
The research was published in the journal eLife.