Sur­vival of the fittest

Science Illustrated - - CANCER -

Just like cloned an­i­mals, can­cer cells must fight for their lives, and the hard con­di­tions drive rapid devel­op­ment. TU­MOUR IS UN­DER PRES­SURE

1 The life of a can­cer tu­mour is con­stantly in dan­ger. Poor blood sup­ply causes it to suf­fer oxy­gen deficit, the im­mune sys­tem at­tacks it, and doc­tors try to kill it with ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy.

MU­TA­TIONS BOOST CELLS

2 Via mu­ta­tions, in­di­vid­ual can­cer cells ob­tain use­ful char­ac­ter­is­tics. They could lib­er­ate neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, which slow down the im­mune sys­tem, or pro­duce pro­teins that can pump chemo drugs out of the cell.

SUR­VIVORS DE­VELOP AGAIN

3 The most re­sis­tant can­cer cells sur­vive and de­velop into new types of cells with other char­ac­ter­is­tics. At­tacks by im­mune cells and doc­tors con­tinue, but the re­sult is just that the most re­sis­tant can­cer cells keep up their su­pe­ri­or­ity.

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