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Cancer in the parasitic protozoans Trypanosoma brucei and Toxoplasma gondii.

  • Author(s): Lun, Zhao-Rong
  • Lai, De-Hua
  • Wen, Yan-Zi
  • Zheng, Ling-Ling
  • Shen, Ji-Long
  • Yang, Ting-Bo
  • Zhou, Wen-Liang
  • Qu, Liang-Hu
  • Hide, Geoff
  • Ayala, Francisco J
  • et al.

Cancer is a general name for more than 100 malignant diseases. It is postulated that all cancers start from a single abnormal cell that grows out of control. Untreated cancers can cause serious consequences and deaths. Great progress has been made in cancer research that has significantly improved our knowledge and understanding of the nature and mechanisms of the disease, but the origins of cancer are far from being well understood due to the limitations of suitable model systems and to the complexities of the disease. In view of the fact that cancers are found in various species of vertebrates and other metazoa, here, we suggest that cancer also occurs in parasitic protozoans such as Trypanosoma brucei, a blood parasite, and Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular pathogen. Without treatment, these protozoan cancers may cause severe disease and death in mammals, including humans. The simpler genomes of these single-cell organisms, in combination with their complex life cycles and fascinating life cycle differentiation processes, may help us to better understand the origins of cancers and, in particular, leukemias.

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