Special IF Conference with Adam WILKINS on friday dec 10th at the CRI seminar Room
" Retrotransposons: the "missing link" in understanding the genesis of cancers? "
By Adam S. Wilkins
The reigning theory of the cause of cancer is the Somatic Mutation Theory (the SMT). This holds that somatic mutations are both the initial cause and driving force of cancers. There is a huge amount of evidence supporting this theory but there are, at least, three sets of observations that suggest that the initiating events in cancer are not always genetic changes, i.e. mutations. The most reasonable interpretation of these data is that cancers can be initiated by epigenetic events, involving some alterations of gene expression, presumably at the chromosome level. What might these changes involve? In this talk, I will discuss the recently published hypothesis that retrotransposon (RTN) activation by different forms of cellular stress may comprise the initiating event in many cancers. In the first half of the talk, the a priori reasons for positing this explanation will be given and then the supporting evidence reviewed. In the second half, I will discuss how this proposition can be integrated with the SMT and the complex body of cancer phenomena, not all of which are ready explained by the SMT. In effect, the idea of RTN activation as an initiator of cancer states requires a more complex theory of cancer causation but one that is, ultimately, more convincing. Finally, possible experimental tests of the hypothesis will be described.