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Comparative Oncology: New Insights into an Ancient Disease.


Cancer has deep evolutionary roots and is an important source of selective pressure in organismal evolution. Yet, we find a great deal of variation in cancer vulnerabilities across the tree of life. Comparative oncology offers insights into why some species vary in their susceptibility to cancer and the mechanisms responsible for the diversity of cancer defenses. Here we provide an overview for why cancer persists across the tree of life. We then summarize current data on cancer in mammals, reptiles, and birds in comparison with commonly reported human cancers. We report on both novel and shared mechanisms of cancer protection in animals. Cross-discipline collaborations, including zoological and aquarium institutions, wildlife and evolutionary biologists, veterinarians, medical doctors, cancer biologists, and oncologists, will be essential for progress in the field of comparative oncology. Improving medical treatment of humans and animals with cancer is the ultimate promise of comparative oncology.

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