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March 22, 2018

Starfish Secrets: Did Echinoderms Cure Cancer? [New Material Added]


Since my theory does say that all Bilaterians accumulated defenses against cancer is it possible that other animals have defenses that might be adaptable to treating or preventing human cancers? Interestingly, researchers at the University of Rochester recently identified a chemical in naked mole rats that seems to make them “cancer-proof.” Although Dr. Vera Gorbunova, one of the lead investigators, had access to my book and cited it in some of her earlier papers, I am certain that neither she nor her colleagues needed guidance from me or from  any evolution theorist to prompt their interest in naked mole rats. After all, researchers have established that other rodents not only experience cancer but may be especially susceptible to it: as mentioned on p134 of Cancer Selection two National Cancer Institute investigators [Anderwont and Dunn] found tumors in more than 40 percent of randomly gathered wild mice. Considering the widely known facts about cancer in rodents the Rochester investigators did not need any evolutionist to suggest that it might be worthwhile examining the rare rodent species that seems not to experience any cancer. Nor would they need much thought to suspect that those cancer-free rodents may even have acquired, over evolutionary time, an efficient anti-cancer mechanism.  

However, I think there may be other animals that might warrant investigation as possible possessors of potentially useful cancer defenses: the echinoderms. These Bilaterians (1) exhibit a characteristic which, according to my theory, complex animals ought not to possess: they regenerate damaged parts with spectacular efficiency. In my book (pp 79, 83 and 144) I argue that the reason most Bilaterians (and especially the more complex ones) do not regenerate as routinely and as competently as, for example, Hydra, is that regeneration involves increased production of somatic cells, each possessing cancer-triggering mechanisms embedded in oncogenes. (My theory asserts that only Bilaterians can die of cancer.)  To prevent death from cancer natural selection would have favored strict limits over regeneration despite its obvious survival benefit. Although I did note (on p79) that starfish can regenerate an entire animal complete with internal organs from one amputated arm, I may have underestimated the significance of that fact.