December 11, 2011
As I explained in my UCSF talk (a voice recording is available) my original guess that animal sleep was (among other things) an anti-cancer adaptation seemed to be confirmed by an earlier experiment with mice who, apparently, are programmed to undertake routine mitosis during sunlight hours, when those nocturnal animals are most likely sleeping in their burrows.
In Cancer Selection after explaining (on page 103) why I was convinced that sleep plays an important anti-cancer role I wrote -- in 1991-- on page 143: "Future discoveries of increased immune activity ... during sleep would support my theory."
A search today at Google Scholar (which did not exist until 2004) for "sleep + 'immune system'" yields a number of papers linking the two.
It is possible, of course, that the concurrence of sleep, routine mitosis and immune activity all happening during hours when exposure to natural UV radiation is at a diurnal low point is unrelated to cancer.
Comments and questions to the author ... are welcomed here.
At this site you will find links to additional material including my original Letters to the Journal of Theoretical Biology and the 1992 Nature review of my book.
© 2011 by James Graham
This page was saved at the Way Back Machine on April 19, 2015.
December 2, 2011
Near the end of my talk at UCSF (see my December 1st posting) one of the researchers introduced the matter of the proximate cause of death. He seemed to reject my (very conventional) view that cancer cells caused death by interfering with the function of vital organs, e.g., the liver. Another participant said many cancer patients die as a result of a cytokine storm or sepsis.
What I should have said was that as an evolutionary theorist I had no interest in how cancer victims died, merely that juveniles with cancer died--of any proximate cause--while still juveniles. For example, if a young African gazelle, physically impaired by leukemia, is killed by a predator, then its death has the same impact on the composition of its gene pool as it would if the leukemia had directly caused its death.
There are no certified pathologists performing gatekeeper duties for gene pools. The genes of animals with genetic defects leading to juvenile cancer are eliminated as long as the animal dies--from any proximate cause--before it reaches the reproductive age.
Note: The French expression "L'esprit de l'escalier" usually translated as "staircase wit" refers to a person's thinking of a witty response to a dinner table conversation only as he departs the host's flat. Because I only thought of this response while flying home to the East Coast I've altered the French for my title.
© 2011 by James Graham
December 1, 2011
On November 23, 2011 I gave an informal talk about Cancer Selection (both the idea and the book) to a small group of researchers associated with The Center for Evolution and Cancer at University of California, San Francisco.
I explain how I happened to get involved in a subject in which I had no training and no prior personal interest but how I nonetheless am confident that my conclusions were correct. I began by apologizing in advance for several self congratulations, when I would point out guesses I made that were borne out by subsequent research.
An audio recording of my presentation is available. To listen to it simply go here. The recording is one hour, seventeen minutes long.