Is cancer ancient, or is it largely a product of modern times? And can the latest research on prevention and treatment strategies make cancer a disease of the past?
By Barbara Dunn. In Nature
Cancer has been around since before the first humans walked the Earth. Fossilized dinosaur bones show evidence of tumours, and archaeologists have discovered a 2,700-year-old human skeleton with evidence of prostate cancer that had spread through its bones. The Greek physician Hippocrates named the disease after the Greek word for 'crab', perhaps because the tumour and its branching network of blood vessels reminded him of the multilegged creature. But was cancer common in ancient times, or is it largely a product of our modern industrial age? Can the latest biology and high-tech genomics research help us devise treatments that target each cancer's vulnerabilities or, better yet, can they prevent the disease?