Alternative concepts in cancer research

© Christian Urban, Universität KielRobert Gatenby talked about his of view of cancer as a dynamic, evolutionary system.
Photo: Christian Urban, Kiel University

Robert A. Gatenby, M.D., American cancer research expert, Chairman of the Department of Radiology and Co-Director of the Cancer Biology and Evolution Program at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, recently visited Kiel University upon invitation by the research focus "Kiel Life Science". In addition to exchanging ideas with numerous researchers at Kiel University, the internationally renowned scientist also gave a public presentation on "Cancer & Evolution" to more than 100 listeners in the evening of 5 November, during which he argued his provocative yet, at the same time, revolutionary perspective of cancer. In the search for new treatments, Gatenby unites theoretical evolutionary biology with tumour biology and clinical oncology. This combination should result in a new view of cancer as a dynamic, evolutionary system. “Despite the critical role of evolution in therapy failure, evolution dynamics virtually never enter clinical design”, Gatenby commented.

On this basis, Gatenby has developed new approaches to therapy that do not aim to completely eliminate the cancer, but which permit the organism to 'tame' or tolerate it. This way, aggressive forms of cancer can be reduced and those affected can live longer - but still with cancer.

Gatenby's cancer research reflects current debate within medicine and evolutionary research which places emphasis on the evolution of the disease and the pathogen when developing treatments. This approach is being extensively discussed in science, in particular for the development of alternative treatments of infectious diseases in the face of the growing antibiotics crisis.

In everyday medical life, and especially from the patients' perspective, this approach represents a major paradigm shift, as the outlook for those affected is then no longer a cure, i.e. complete removal of disease and pathogen, but a longer-lasting or permanent tolerance of the illness. Gatenby's presentation brought this year's KLS series of lectures focussing on "Evolutionary Medicine" to an end. In 2016 the lecture series will continue with new focus areas.

More information:

Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center:

Research focus "Kiel Life Science“, Kiel University: