University of California-Berkeley molecular and cell biology professor Peter Duesberg writes in the journal Cell Cycle that carcinogenesis, the generation of cancer, is just another form of speciation, or the evolution of new species.
He proposes that cancers have actually evolved new chromosomal karyotypes that qualify them as independent species, similar to parasites and much different from their living hosts.
“Cancer is comparable to a bacterial level of complexity, but still autonomous, that is, it doesn’t depend on other cells for survival; it doesn’t follow orders like other cells in the body, and it can grow where, when and how it likes,” said Duesberg. “That’s what species are all about.”
Duesbeg's arguments stem from his controversial proposal that the reigning theory of cancer — that tumors begin when a handful of mutated genes send a cell into uncontrolled growth — is wrong.
He argues that carcinogenesis is instead initiated by a disruption of the chromosomes, which leads to duplicates, deletions, breaks and other chromosomal damage that alter the balance of tens of thousands of genes.
The result is a cell with totally new traits — known as a new phenotype.