It pained me to see that bad biology peddled by Davies and Lineweaver, who tried to argue that cancer was a revived genetic atavism, a kind of throwback to a primeval state. But they just won’t learn. It’s as if they don’t care to learn. Now Lineweaver has a new article up flogging the same old dud of an idea, claiming that an “astrobiological view” of cancer's evolutionary origin is relevant. He does have a new metaphor.
Genomes have a complicated history, like a canvas that has been painted on over and over again with different scenes in each layer. When the top surface of this palimpsest gets old and cracks and peels off, you don’t get random mutations of colour – you get glimpses of the underlying scenes that were painted years earlier.
Those underlying scenes are the ancient genes that used to rule the roost. And those ancient scenes don’t contain the genes to regulate cell proliferation. So cells can proliferate without knowing where they are in the body, and cancer emerges.
You know, rather than an astrophysicist’s view, I’d rather have a microbiologist’s view. She wouldn’t be assuming that ancient single-celled organisms lacked genes to regulate cell proliferation — she’d probably know that bacteria have cell cycle regulators, and control their reproduction to match opportunities and constraints in the environment. It would be nice for these bozos to get some input from people who actually know how cells work, rather than that they continue on with their ignorant assumptions.
Also, he repeats this really annoying rationale.
Our model gives hope to cancer researchers because it predicts that the number of adaptive behaviours available to cancer is not open-ended.
You know what else would give researchers hope? If your model predicted that a shot of penicillin would cure cancer. It doesn’t, but it sure would be hopeful to pretend that something that simple would fix all our problems. Also, maybe it could fix global warming and end the wars in the Middle East, too…see how hopeful it could be?
But we don’t evaluate hypotheses by how much we wish they were true — we test them against reality, instead. Davies and Lineweaver really need a good solid whack on the noggin by the 2×4 of reality, that’s for sure.