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Genome Chaos, Information Creation, and Cancer Emergence: Searching for New Frameworks on the 50th Anniversary of the “War on Cancer”

Published: 31 December 2021
 by  MDPI
 in Genes

Abstract: The year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act, signed by President Nixon, which declared a national “war on cancer.” Powered by enormous financial support, this past half-century has witnessed remarkable progress in understanding the individual molecular mechanisms of cancer, primarily through the characterization of cancer genes and the phenotypes associated with their pathways. Despite millions of publications and the overwhelming volume data generated from the Cancer Genome Project, clinical benefits are still lacking. In fact, the massive, diverse data also unexpectedly challenge the current somatic gene mutation theory of cancer, as well as the initial rationales behind sequencing so many cancer samples. Therefore, what should we do next? Should we continue to sequence more samples and push for further molecular characterizations, or should we take a moment to pause and think about the biological meaning of the data we have, integrating new ideas in cancer biology? On this special anniversary, we implore that it is time for the latter. We review the Genome Architecture Theory, an alternative conceptual framework that departs from gene-based theories. Specifically, we discuss the relationship between genes, genomes, and information-based platforms for future cancer research. This discussion will reinforce some newly proposed concepts that are essential for advancing cancer research, including two-phased cancer evolution (which reconciles evolutionary contributions from karyotypes and genes), stress-induced genome chaos (which creates new system information essential for macroevolution), the evolutionary mechanism of cancer (which unifies diverse molecular mechanisms to create new karyotype coding during evolution), and cellular adaptation and cancer emergence (which explains why cancer exists in the first place). We hope that these ideas will usher in new genomic and evolutionary conceptual frameworks and strategies for the next 50 years of cancer research.
Keywords: evolutionary mechanism of cancer / Genome Architecture Theory / information management / karyotype coding / National Cancer Act of 1971 / two-phased evolution model

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