December 2018 Molecular Cytogenetics 11(1):4 DOI: 10.1186/s13039-017-0350-4
Foulds defined, “Tumor progression (as a) permanent, irreversible qualitative change in one or more of its characters” (Cancer Res. 1954). Accordingly progressions, such as metastases and acquired drug-resistance, were since found to be subspecies of cancers with conserved and numerous new chromosomes. Here we ask whether cancers acquire numerous new chromosomes gradually or simultaneously in progressions. The currently prevailing theory of Nowell (Science, 1976) holds that unexplained “genetic instability” generates “variant sublines (with) changes in chromosome number” and that “clonal” progressions arise by “stepwise selection of more aggressive sublines”. The literature, however, contains many examples of “immediate” selections of progressions with numerous new chromosomes - notably experimentally initiated fusions between cancers and heterologous cells. Furthermore, the stepwise progression theory predicts intermediate sublines of cancers with multiple non-clonal additions of new chromosomes. However, the literature does not describe such intermediates. ResultsIn view of these inconsistencies with stepwise progression we test here a saltational theory, in which the inherent variability of cancer-specific aneuploidy generates “immediate” progressions with individual clonal karyotypes, transcriptomes and phenotypes in single steps. Using cell fusion as an established controllable model of “immediate” progression, we generated seven immortal murine hybridomas by fusing immortal murine myeloma cells and normal antibody-producing B-cells with polyethylene glycol within a few minutes. These immortal hybridomas contained individual sets of 71 to 105 clonal chromosomes, compared to the 52 chromosomes of the parental myeloma. Thus the myeloma had gained 19 to 53 new clonal chromosomes in seven individual hybridomas in a single step. Furthermore, no stable intermediates were found, as would be predicted by a saltational process. Conclusions We conclude that random fusions between myelomas and normal B-cells generate clonal hybridomas with multiple, individual chromosomes in single steps. Similar single-step mechanisms may also generate the “late” clonal progressions of cancers with gains of numerous new chromosomes and thus explain the absence of intermediates. Latency would reflect the low probability of rare stochastic progressions. In conclusion, the karyotypic clonality of hybridomas and spontaneous progressions suggests karyotypic alterations as proximate causes of neoplastic progressions. Since cancer-specific aneuploidy catalyzes karyotypic variation, the degree of aneuploidy predicts the clinical risk of neoplastic progression, confirming classical predictions based on DNA content.Link
August 2018 Genes 9(8):402 DOI: 10.3390/genes9080402
It has been known for over 100 years that cancers have individual karyotypes and arise only years to decades after initiating carcinogens. However, there is still no coherent theory to explain these definitive characteristics of cancer. The prevailing mutation theory holds that cancers are late because the primary cell must accumulate 3–8 causative mutations to become carcinogenic and that mutations, which induce chromosomal instability (CIN), generate the individual karyotypes of cancers. However, since there is still no proven set of mutations that transforms a normal to a cancer cell, we have recently advanced the theory that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation. This theory predicts carcinogens initiate cancer by inducing aneuploidy, which automatically unbalances thousands of genes and thus catalyzes chain-reactions of progressive aneuploidizations. Over time, these aneuploidizations have two endpoints, either non-viable karyotypes or very rarely karyotypes of new autonomous and immortal cancers. Cancer karyotypes are immortalized despite destabilizing congenital aneuploidy by clonal selections for autonomy—similar to those of conventional species. This theory predicts that the very low probability of converting the karyotype of a normal cell to that of a new autonomous cancer species by random aneuploidizations is the reason for the karyotypic individuality of new cancers and for the long latencies from carcinogens to cancers. In testing this theory, we observed: (1) Addition of mutagenic and non-mutagenic carcinogens to normal human and rat cells generated progressive aneuploidizations months before neoplastic transformation. (2) Sub-cloning of a neoplastic rat clone revealed heritable individual karyotypes, rather than the non-heritable karyotypes predicted by the CIN theory. (3) Analyses of neoplastic and preneoplastic karyotypes unexpectedly identified karyotypes with sets of 3–11 new marker chromosomes without detectable intermediates, consistent with single-step origins. We conclude that the speciation theory explains logically the long latencies from carcinogen exposure and the individuality of cancers. In addition, the theory supports the single-step origins of cancers, because karyotypic autonomy is all-or-nothing. Accordingly, we propose that preneoplastic aneuploidy and clonal neoplastic karyotypes provide more reliable therapeutic indications than current analyses of thousands of mutations.Link
Molecular Cytogenetics2017,10(Suppl 2):I1
Collection of AbstractsLink
November 2016 Molecular Cytogenetics 9(1):90 DOI: 10.1186/s13039-016-0297-x
The genetic basis of metastasis is still unclear because metastases carry individual karyotypes and phenotypes, rather than consistent mutations, and are rare compared to conventional mutation. There is however correlative evidence that metastasis depends on cancer-specific aneuploidy, and that metastases are karyotypically related to parental cancers. Accordingly we propose that metastasis is a speciation event. This theory holds that cancer-specific aneuploidy varies the clonal karyotypes of cancers automatically by unbalancing thousands of genes, and that rare variants form new autonomous subspecies with metastatic or other non-parental phenotypes like drug-resistance – similar to conventional subspeciation. ResultsTo test this theory, we analyzed the karyotypic and morphological relationships between seven cancers and corresponding metastases. We found (1) that the cellular phenotypes of metastases were closely related to those of parental cancers, (2) that metastases shared 29 to 96% of their clonal karyotypic elements or aneusomies with the clonal karyotypes of parental cancers and (3) that, unexpectedly, the karyotypic complexity of metastases was very similar to that of the parental cancer. This suggests that metastases derive cancer-specific autonomy by conserving the overall complexity of the parental karyotype. We deduced from these results that cancers cause metastases by karyotypic variations and selection for rare metastatic subspecies. Further we asked whether metastases with multiple metastasis-specific aneusomies are assembled in one or multiple, sequential steps. Since (1) no stable karyotypic intermediates of metastases were observed in cancers here and previously by others, and (2) the karyotypic complexities of cancers are conserved in metastases, we concluded that metastases are generated from cancers in one step – like subspecies in conventional speciation. Conclusions We conclude that the risk of cancers to metastasize is proportional to the degree of cancer-specific aneuploidy, because aneuploidy catalyzes the generation of subspecies, including metastases, at aneuploidy-dependent rates. Since speciation by random chromosomal rearrangements and selection is unpredictable, the theory that metastases are karyotypic subspecies of cancers also explains Foulds’ rules, which hold that the origins of metastases are “abrupt” and that their phenotypes are “unpredictable.”Link
October 2015 Molecular Cytogenetics 8(1):79 DOI: 10.1186/s13039-015-0183-y
Background: Despite over 50 years of research, it remains unclear how the DNA tumor viruses SV40 and Polyoma cause cancers. Prevailing theories hold that virus-coded Tumor (T)-antigens cause cancer by inactivating cellular tumor suppressor genes. But these theories don't explain four characteristics of viral carcinogenesis: (1) less than one in 10,000 infected cells become cancer cells, (2) cancers have complex individual phenotypes and transcriptomes, (3) recurrent tumors without viral DNA and proteins, (4) preneoplastic aneuploidies and immortal neoplastic clones with individual karyotypes. Results: As an alternative theory we propose that viral carcinogenesis is a form of speciation, initiated by virus-induced aneuploidy. Since aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype by unbalancing thousands of genes it catalyzes chain reactions of karyotypic and transcriptomic evolutions. Eventually rare karyotypes evolve that encode cancer-specific autonomy of growth. The low probability of forming new autonomous cancer-species by random karyotypic and transcriptomic variations predicts individual and clonal cancers. Although cancer karyotypes are congenitally aneuploid and thus variable, they are stabilized or immortalized by selections for variants with cancer-specific autonomy. Owing to these inherent variations cancer karyotypes are heterogeneous within clonal margins. To test this theory we analyzed karyotypes and phenotypes of SV40-infected human, rat and mouse cells developing into neoplastic clones. In all three systems we found (1) preneoplastic aneuploidies, (2) neoplastic clones with individual clonal but flexible karyotypes and phenotypes, which arose from less than one in 10,000 infected cells, survived over 200 generations, but were either T-antigen positive or negative, (3) spontaneous and drug-induced variations of neoplastic phenotypes correlating 1-to-1 with karyotypic variations. Conclusions: Since all 14 virus-induced neoplastic clones tested contained individual clonal karyotypes and phenotypes, we conclude that these karyotypes have generated and since maintained these neoplastic clones. Thus SV40 causes cancer indirectly, like carcinogens, by inducing aneuploidy from which new cancer-specific karyotypes evolve automatically at low rates. This theory explains the (1) low probability of carcinogenesis per virus-infected cell, (2) the individuality and clonal flexibility of cancer karyotypes, (3) recurrence of neoplasias without viral T-antigens, and (4) the individual clonal karyotypes, transcriptomes and immortality of virus-induced neoplasias - all unexplained by current viral theories.Link
December 2014 Molecular Cytogenetics 7(1):71 DOI: 10.1186/s13039-014-0071-x
A century of research has established that cancers arise from tissues exposed to carcinogens only after long latencies of years to decades and have individual clonal karyotypes. Since speciation from known precursors also depends on long latencies and new species also have individual karyotypes, we and others have recently proposed that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation. According to this theory karyotypic evolutions generate new cancer species from normal cells as follows: Carcinogens induce aneuploidy (Figure 1). By unbalancing thousands of genes aneuploidy automatically destabilizes the karyotype and thus catalyzes random karyotypic variations. Selections of variants with proliferative phenotypes form non-clonal hyperplasias with persistently varying karyotypes. Very rare karyotypic variations form new cancer species with individual clonal karyotypes. Despite destabilization by the resulting congenital aneuploidies, cancer karyotypes are stabilized within narrow margins of variation by clonal selections for cancer-specific autonomy. Because all non-cancerous aneuploidies are unstable, all aneusomies of prospective cancers are joined in single-steps, rather than gradually. Since this mechanism is very inefficient, it predicts long latent periods from carcinogens to cancers and individual clonal cancer karyotypes. Here we have tested the predicted roles of karyotypic evolutions during the time course of carcinogenesis in an established experimental system. In this system injection of nitrosourea induces in female rats non-invasive mammary hyperplasias ("tumors") after two or more months, and invasive carcinomas after six or more months. Accordingly four specific predictions were tested: (1) Invasive cancers are late and carry individual clonal karyotypes and phenotypes, (2) Persistent hyperplasias carry non-clonal karyotypes, (3) Non-clonal hyperplasias generate clonal cancers spontaneously but rarely, (4) Cancer-karyotypes arise with all individual clonal aneusomies in single-steps. All four predictions were experimentally confirmed. Our results along with the literature reveal a coherent karyotypic mechanism of carcinogenesis: Carcinogens induce aneuploidy. The inherent instability of aneuploidy automatically catalyzes new karyotypic variations. Aneuploid karyotypes with proliferative phenotypes form varying non-clonal hyperplasias. Rare variations form cancer species with individual clonal karyotypes, which are stabilized by clonal selection for autonomy. The low odds of this mechanism explain the long latencies of carcinogenesis, the individuality and karyotypic clonality of cancers.Link
February 2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(11) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1401413111
In their recent paper, Valind et al. test the theory that “aneuploidy automatically” destabilizes the karyotype (1). According to this theory, aneuploidy, an abnormal balance of chromosomes, destabilizes the karyotype automatically by unbalancing the cooperations of thousands of genes, especially mitosis genes: The more aneuploid the cell the more unstable is the karyotype (2)Link
October 2013 Molecular Cytogenetics 6(1):44 DOI: 10.1186/1755-8166-6-44
In 1952 Papanicolaou et al. first diagnosed and graded cervical carcinomas based on individual "abnormal DNA contents" and cellular phenotypes. Surprisingly current papilloma virus and mutation theories of carcinomas do not mention these individualities. The viral theory holds that randomly integrated, defective genomes of papilloma viruses, which are often untranscribed, cause cervical carcinomas with unknown cofactors 20--50 years after infection. Virus-free carcinomas are attributed to mutations of a few tumor-suppressor genes, especially the p53 gene. But the paradox of how a few mutations or latent defective viral DNAs would generate carcinomas with endless individual DNA contents, degrees of malignancies and cellular phenotypes is unsolved. Since speciation predicts individuality, we test here the theory that cancers are autonomous species with individual clonal karyotypes and phenotypes. This theory postulates that carcinogens induce aneuploidy. By unbalancing mitosis genes aneuploidy catalyzes chain reactions of karyotypic evolutions. Most such evolutions end with non-viable karyotypes but a few become new cancer karyotypes. Despite congenitally unbalanced mitosis genes cancer karyotypes are stabilized by clonal selections for cancer-specific autonomy. To test the prediction of the speciation theory that individual carcinomas have individual clonal karyotypes and phenotypes, we have analyzed here the phenotypes and karyotypes of nine cervical carcinomas. Seven of these contained papilloma virus sequences and two did not. We determined phenotypic individuality and clonality based on the morphology and sociology of carcinoma cells in vitro. Karyotypic individuality and clonality were determined by comparing all chromosomes of 20 karyotypes of carcinomas in three-dimensional arrays. Such arrays list chromosome numbers on the x-axis, chromosome copy numbers on the y-axis and the number of karyotypes arrayed on the z-axis. We found (1) individual clonal karyotypes and phenotypes in all nine carcinomas, but no virus-specific markers, (2) 1-to-1 variations between carcinoma-specific karyotypes and phenotypes, e.g. drug-resistance and cell morphology, (3) proportionality between the copy numbers of chromosomes and the copy numbers of hundreds of over- and under-expressed mRNAs, (4) evidence that tobacco-carcinogens induce cervical carcinomas via aneuploidy, consistent with the speciation theory. Since the individual clonal karyotypes of nine carcinomas correlated and co-varied 1-to-1 with complex individual transcriptomes and phenotypes, we have classical genetic and functional transcriptomic evidence to conclude that these karyotypes encode carcinomas - much like the clonal karyotypes that encode conventional species. These individual karyotypes explain the individual "DNA contents", the endless grades of malignancies and the complex individual transcriptomes and phenotypes of carcinomas.Link
February 2013Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 12(5) DOI: 10.4161/cc.23720
Immortality is a common characteristic of cancers, but its origin and purpose are still unclear. Here we advance a karyotypic theory of immortality based on the theory that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation. Accordingly, cancers are generated from normal cells by random karyotypic rearrangements and selection for cancer-specific reproductive autonomy. Since such rearrangements unbalance long-established mitosis genes, cancer karyotypes vary spontaneously but are stabilized perpetually by clonal selections for autonomy. To test this theory we have analyzed neoplastic clones, presumably immortalized by transfection with overexpressed telomerase or with SV40 tumor virus, for the predicted clonal yet flexible karyotypes. The following results were obtained: (1) All immortal tumorigenic lines from cells transfected with overexpressed telomerase had clonal and flexible karyotypes; (2) Searching for the origin of such karyotypes, we found spontaneously increasing, random aneuploidy in human fibroblasts early after transfection with overexpressed telomerase; (3) Late after transfection, new immortal tumorigenic clones with new clonal and flexible karyotypes were found; (4) Testing immortality of one clone during 848 unselected generations showed the chromosome number was stable, but the copy numbers of 36% of chromosomes drifted ± 1; (5) Independent immortal tumorigenic clones with individual, flexible karyotypes arose after individual latencies; (6) Immortal tumorigenic clones with new flexible karyotypes also arose from cells of a telomerase-deficient mouse rendered aneuploid by SV40 virus. Because immortality and tumorigenicity: (1) correlated exactly with individual clonal but flexible karyotypes; (2) originated simultaneously with such karyotypes; and (3) arose in the absence of telomerase, we conclude that clonal and flexible karyotypes generate the immortality of cancers.Link
July 2012 European Journal of Cancer 48:S125 DOI: 10.1016/S0959-8049(12)71186-3
Pathogenesis and clinicopathological features of spontaneous cancers in the dog are very similar to their counterparts in the human, while the course of the disease is much more rapid, enabling quicker collection of prognostic data. Gross (>5%) deviations of the nuclear DNA content measured by flowcytometry (FCM) may be related to prognosis and may provide clues into the karyotypic destabilization, relevant to tumorigenesis itself.Link
Cell Cycle. 2012 Mar 15;11(6):1151-66. doi: 10.4161/cc.11.6.19580. Epub 2012 Mar 15.
Conventional mutation theories do not explain (1) why the karyotypes of metastases are related to those of parental cancers but not to those of metastases of other cancers and (2) why cancers metastasize at rates that often far exceed those of conventional mutations. To answer these questions, we advance here the theory that metastases are autonomous subspecies of cancers, rather than mutations. Since cancers are species with intrinsically flexible karyotypes, they can generate new subspecies by spontaneous karyotypic rearrangements. This phylogenetic theory predicts that metastases are karyotypically related to parental cancers but not to others. Testing these predictions on metastases from two pancreatic cancers, we found: (1) Metastases had individual karyotypes and phenotypes. The karyotypes of metastases were related to, but different from, those of parental cancers in 11 out of 37 and 26 out of 49 parental chromosomal units. Chromosomal units are defined as intact chromosomes with cancer-specific copy numbers and marker chromosomes that are > 50% clonal. (2) Metastases from the two different cancers did not share chromosomal units. Testing the view that multi-chromosomal rearrangements occur simultaneously in cancers, as opposed to sequentially, we found spontaneous non-clonal rearrangements with as many new chromosomal units as in authentic metastases. We conclude that metastases are individual autonomous species differing from each other and parental cancers in species-specific karyotypes and phenotypes. They are generated from parental cancers by multiple simultaneous karyotypic rearrangements, much like new species. The species-specific individualities of metastases explain why so many searches for commonalities have been unsuccessful.Link
Ital J Anat Embryol. 2011;116(2):73-92.
Since the discoveries of a putative AIDS virus in 1984 and of millions of asymptomatic carriers in subsequent years, no general AIDS epidemic has occurred by 2011. In 2008, however, it has been proposed that between 2000 and 2005 the new AIDS virus, now called HIV, had killed 1.8 million South Africans at a steady rate of 300,000 per year and that anti-HIV drugs could have saved 330,000 of those. Here we investigate these claims in view of the paradoxes that HIV would cause a general epidemic in Africa but not in other continents, and a steady rather than a classical bell-shaped epidemic like all other new pathogenic viruses. Surprisingly, we found that South Africa attributed only about 10,000 deaths per year to HIV between 2000 and 2005 and that the South African population had increased by 3 million between 2000 and 2005 at a steady rate of 500,000 per year. This gain was part of a monotonic growth trajectory spanning from 29 million in 1980 to 49 million in 2008. During the same time Uganda increased from 12 to 31 million, and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole doubled from 400 to 800 million, despite high prevalence HIV. We deduce from this demographic evidence that HIV is not a new killer virus. Based on a review of the known toxicities of antiretroviral drugs we like to draw the attention of scientists, who work in basic and clinical medical fields, including embryologists, to the need of rethinking the risk-and-benefit balance of antiretroviral drugs for pregnant women, newborn babies and all others who carry antibodies against HIV.Link
Cell Cycle. 2011 Jul 1;10(13):2100-14. Epub 2011 Jul 1.
Since cancers have individual clonal karyotypes, are immortal and evolve from normal cells treated by carcinogens only after exceedingly long latencies of many months to decades-we deduce that carcinogenesis may be a form of speciation. This theory proposes that carcinogens initiate carcinogenesis by causing aneuploidy, i.e., losses or gains of chromosomes. Aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype, because it unbalances thousands of collaborating genes including those that synthesize, segregate and repair chromosomes. Driven by this inherent instability aneuploid cells evolve ever-more random karyotypes automatically. Most of these perish, but a very small minority acquires reproductive autonomy-the primary characteristic of cancer cells and species. Selection for autonomy stabilizes new cancer species against the inherent instability of aneuploidy within specific margins of variation. The speciation theory explains five common characteristics of cancers: (1) species-specific autonomy; (2) karyotypic and phenotypic individuality; (3) flexibility by karyotypic variations within stable margins of autonomy; (4) immortality by replacing defective karyotypes from constitutive pools of competent variants or subspecies generated by this flexibility; and (5) long neoplastic latencies by the low probability that random karyotypic alterations generate new autonomous species. Moreover, the theory explains phylogenetic relations between cancers of the same tissue, because carcinogenesis is restricted by tissue-specific transcriptomes. The theory also solves paradoxes of other cancer theories. For example, "aneuploidy" of cancers is now said to be a "paradox" or "cancer's fatal flaw," because aneuploidy impairs normal growth and development. But if the "aneuploidies" of cancers are in effect the karyotypes of new species, this paradox is solved.Link
Eur J Haematol. 2010 Aug;85(2):139-48. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0609.2010.01459.x. Epub 2010 Apr 16.
OBJECTIVES: Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) target various pathways associated with proliferation of aberrant clones in malignant diseases. Despite good response and acceptable tolerability, little is known concerning long-term toxicity. Furthermore, the influence of these inhibitors on disease-unrelated cells is not investigated yet.
METHODS: Centrosome aberrations are hallmarks of various cancers. We sought to evaluate the effect of TKIs on centrosomes of disease-unrelated cells. We examined cells of the oral mucosa (OM) and fibroblasts of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) treated with dasatinib and bosutinib. Results were compared with data from patients with CML treated with imatinib or nilotinib and with data from patients suffering from renal and hepatocellular carcinomas (RCC/HCC) treated with sorafenib or sunitinib. Cells of healthy donors served as controls.
RESULTS: OM cells (n = 12) and fibroblasts (n = 7) of patients with CML treated with dasatinib and OM cells of three patients with CML treated with bosutinib showed centrosomal alterations (mean, 14%) compared with 16 (10 OM and 6 fibroblasts) controls (mean, 3%). OM cells of five patients with CML and one patient with systemic mastocytosis treated with imatinib or nilotinib and of eight patients with RCC or HCC treated with sorafenib or sunitinib showed centrosome defects in a mean of 15%.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data have shown that TKI treatment of tumor patients may influence centrosomes in disease-unrelated cells or tissues. This may be important with regard to various observed side effects.Link
Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 2010 Jul 15;200(2):79-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cancergencyto.2010.04.008.
Cancers are clones of autonomous cells defined by individual karyotypes, much like species. Despite such karyotypic evidence for causality, three to six synergistic mutations, termed oncogenes, are generally thought to cause cancer. To test single oncogenes, they are artificially activated with heterologous promoters and spliced into the germ line of mice to initiate cancers with collaborating spontaneous oncogenes. Because such cancers are studied as models for the treatment of natural cancers with related oncogenes, the following must be answered: 1) which oncogenes collaborate with the transgenes in cancers; 2) how do single transgenic oncogenes induce diverse cancers and hyperplasias; 3) what maintains cancers that lose initiating transgenes; 4) why are cancers aneuploid, over- and underexpressing thousands of normal genes? Here we try to answer these questions with the theory that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation. We postulate that transgenic oncogenes initiate carcinogenesis by inducing aneuploidy. Aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype by unbalancing teams of mitosis genes. This instability thus catalyzes the evolution of new cancer species with individual karyotypes. Depending on their degree of aneuploidy, these cancers then evolve new subspecies. To test this theory, we have analyzed the karyotypes and phenotypes of mammary carcinomas of mice with transgenic SV40 tumor virus- and hepatitis B virus-derived oncogenes. We found that (1) a given transgene induced diverse carcinomas with individual karyotypes and phenotypes; (2) these karyotypes coevolved with newly acquired phenotypes such as drug resistance; (3) 8 of 12 carcinomas were transgene negative. Having found one-to-one correlations between individual karyotypes and phenotypes and consistent coevolutions of karyotypes and phenotypes, we conclude that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation and that individual karyotypes maintain cancers as they maintain species. Because activated oncogenes destabilize karyotypes and are dispensable in cancers, we conclude that they function indirectly, like carcinogens. Such oncogenes would thus not be valid models for the treatment of cancers.Link
Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 2009 Oct 15;194(2):96-110. doi: 10.1016/j.cancergencyto.2009.06.008.
Cancers have clonal, aneuploid karyotypes that evolve ever more malignant phenotypes spontaneously. Because these facts are hard to explain by conventional mutation theory, we propose here a karyotypic cancer theory. According to this theory, carcinogens initiate carcinogenesis by inducing random aneuploidy. Aneuploidy then catalyzes karyotypic evolutions, because it destabilizes the karyotype by unbalancing teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize, and repair chromosomes. Sporadically, such evolutions generate new cancer-causing karyotypes, which are stabilized within narrow limits against the inherent instability of aneuploidy by selection for oncogenic function. Here we have tested this theory prospectively by analyzing the karyotypes of distinct tumorigenic clones, which arose from mass cultures of human cells within a few months after transfection with artificially activated oncogenes. All clones from the same parental cells had individual, "near-clonal" karyotypes and phenotypes, although the parental oncogenes were identical. The karyotypes of distinct tumors formed by a given clone in immunodeficient mice were variants of those of the input clones. The karyotypes of tumorigenic clones also evolved on passages in vitro, in which they acquired either enhanced tumorigenicity spontaneously or resistance against methotrexate upon selection. We conclude that activated oncogenes initiate carcinogenesis indirectly by inducing random aneuploidy, much like conventional carcinogens, but more effectively because the oncogenes are integrated into the genome. Since aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype, such cells evolve new, cancer-specific karyotypes spontaneously, much like new species. Because individual karyotypes of tumorigenic clones correlate and coevolve with individual phenotypes, we conclude that specific karyotypes as a whole are the genomes of cancer cells. Owing to the flexibility of their aneuploid karyotypes, cancers evolve at rates that are roughly proportional to their degrees of aneuploidy. In sum, genomes consisting of individual and flexible karyotypes explain the characteristic individuality, stability, and flexibility of cancers.Link
Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 2009 Jan 1;188(1):1-25. doi: 10.1016/j.cancergencyto.2008.08.016.
The chromosomes of cancer cells are unstable, because of aneuploidy. Despite chromosomal instability, however, cancer karyotypes are individual and quasi-stable, as is evident especially from clonal chromosome copy numbers and marker chromosomes. This paradox would be resolved if the karyotypes in cancers represent chromosomal equilibria between destabilizing aneuploidy and stabilizing selection for oncogenic function. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed the initial and long-term karyotypes of seven clones of newly transformed human epithelial, mammary, and muscle cells. Approximately 1 in 100,000 such cells generates transformed clones at 2-3 months after introduction of retrovirus-activated cellular genes or the tumor virus SV40. These frequencies are too low for direct transformation, so we postulated that virus-activated genes initiate transformation indirectly, via specific karyotypes. Using multicolor fluorescence in situ hybridization with chromosome-specific DNA probes, we found individual clonal karyotypes that were stable for at least 34 cell generations-within limits, as follows. Depending on the karyotype, average clonal chromosome numbers were stable within +/- 3%, and chromosome-specific copy numbers were stable in 70-100% cells. At any one time, however, relative to clonal means, per-cell chromosome numbers varied +/-18% and chromosome-specific copy numbers varied +/-1 in 0-30% of cells; unstable nonclonal markers were found within karyotype-specific quotas of < 1% to 20% of the total chromosome number. For two clones, karyotypic ploidies also varied. With these rates of variation, the karyotypes of transformed clones would randomize in a few generations unless selection occurs. We conclude that individual aneuploid karyotypes initiate and maintain cancers, much like new species. These cancer-causing karyotypes are in flexible equilibrium between destabilizing aneuploidy and stabilizing selection for transforming function. Karyotypes as a whole, rather than specific mutations, explain the individuality, fluidity, and phenotypic complexity of cancers.Link
Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 2008 Jan 15;180(2):89-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cancergencyto.2007.10.006.
Several researchers, including us, have recently proposed that specific karyotypes, rather than specific mutations, generate the "biochemical individuality" of cancers, defined by individual growth rates, metabolisms, drug-resistances, metastases and cell morphologies. According to our theory, independent karyotypic evolutions generate cancers, much like new phylogenetic species. To allow such evolutions in the lifetime of an organism, the normal karyotype must be destabilized, but not the genes. The karyotype is destabilized by aneuploidy, because aneuploidy unbalances conserved teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize and repair chromosomes. And aneuploidy is induced either by carcinogens or spontaneously. Here, we tested this theory using a new system that virtually excludes spontaneous mutation. In this sytem, 50% of normal human muscle cells became aneuploid and 5 per 10(6) formed foci of transformed Mu6 cells - only 2 months after transfection with 6 virus-activated cellular genes. Analyses of 10 foci revealed: (1) clonal karyotypes, consisting of one or more stemlines of spontaneously evolving aneuploidies and some non-clonal aneuploidies, and (2) individual phenotypes, such as cell morphologies, growth rates and intrinsic resistance to cytosine arabinoside, shared by 5 foci with a common stemline. Due to the short preneoplastic latencies of Mu6 cells several non-clonal precursors of focus-specific, aneuploid karyotypes were detectable before focus formation. Chemical carcinogens were also found to induce tumors with clonally evolving stemlines in Chinese hamsters. We conclude that specific clones of spontaneously evolving karyotypes, rather than specific mutations, generate the individuality of cancers. This answers the age-old question, why even cancers of the same kind do not have consistent karyotypes.Link
Sci Am 296 (2007), pp. 52-59.
Current wisdom on the role of genes in malignancy may not explain some features of cancer, but stepping back to look at the bigger picture inside cells reveals a view that just mightPDF
Letter: Cell Oncol 29 (2007), pp. 71-72.
Letter to the EditorPDF
Drug Resist Updat 10 (2007), pp. 51-58.
Current genetic and epigenetic theories of cancer-specific drug resistance do not adequately explain: (i) the karyotypic changes that coincide with resistance, (ii) the high rates at which cancer cells acquire and enhance resistance compared to the rates of conventional mutation, (iii) the wide ranges of resistance such as multidrug resistance, (iv) the frequent occurrence of intrinsic drug resistance. We have recently proposed, that specific karyotypic alterations are sufficient for drug resistance via new transcriptomes of cooperative genes, independent of gene mutation. This mechanism generates new phenotypes just like trisomy 21 generates Down syndrome. These karyotypic changes are generated by cancer-specific aneuploidy autocatalytically, because aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype by misbalancing teams of proteins that synthesize, repair and segregate chromosomes. Evidence for this chromosomal mechanism is as follows: (i) resistance is proportional to the number of clonal chromosomal alterations compared to drug-sensitive precursors. (ii) The high rates at which cancer cells acquire drug resistance are comparable with the rates, as high as 10−2 per cell generation, at which their karyotypes change—dimming hopes for gene-specific therapies. (iii) Multidrug resistance probably reflects un-selected transcriptomes of karyotypes selected for resistance against specific drugs. (iv) Intrinsic drug resistance probably reflects unselected transcriptomes of karyotypes selected for oncogenicity. We also adduce evidence that resistance of chronic myeloid leukemia against the drug imatinib is chromosomal, although it is widely believed to be due to mutation of a kinase.PDF
Br J Haematol 138 (2007), pp. 369-373.
Centrosomes play fundamental roles in mitotic spindle organisation, chromosome segregation and maintenance of genetic stability. Recently, we have demonstrated that the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib induces centrosome and chromosome aberrations in vitro. Here, we comparatively investigated the effects of imatinib and the more potent successor drug nilotinib on centrosome, mitotic spindle and karyotype status in primary human fibroblasts. Therapeutic doses of imatinib and/or nilotinib administered separately, consecutively or in combination similarly induced centrosome, mitotic spindle, and karyotype aberrations. Our data suggest that distinct tyrosine kinases likewise targeted by both drugs are essential actuators in maintenance of centrosome and karyotype integrity.PDF
Contrib Microbiol. (Basel, Krager) vol. 13, 16-44 (2006).
Conventional genetic theories have failed to explain why cancer (1) is not found in newborns and thus not heritable; (2) develops only years to decades after ‘initiation’ by carcinogens; (3) is caused by non-mutagenic carcinogens; (4) is chromosomally and phenotypically ‘unstable’; (5) carries cancer-specific aneuploidies; (6) evolves polygenic phenotypes; (7) nonselective phenotypes such as multidrug resistance, metastasis or affinity for non-native sites and ‘immortality’ that is not necessary for tumorigenesis; (8) contains no carcinogenic mutations. We propose instead that cancer is a chromosomal disease: Accordingly, carcinogens initiate chromosomal evolutions via unspecific aneuploidies. By unbalancing thousands of genes aneuploidy corrupts teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize and repair chromosomes. Aneuploidy is thus a steady source of karyotypic–phenotypic variations from which, in classical Darwinian terms, selection of cancer-specific aneuploidies encourages the evolution and subsequent malignant ‘progressions’ of cancer cells. The rates of these variations are proportional to the degrees of aneuploidy, and can exceed conventional mutation by 4–7 orders of magnitude. This makes cancer cells new cell ‘species’ with distinct, but unstable karyotypes, rather than mutant cells. The cancer-specific aneuploidies generate complex, malignant phenotypes, through the abnormal dosages of the thousands of genes, just as trisomy 21 generates Down syndrome. Thus cancer is a chromosomal rather than a genetic disease. The chromosomal theory explains (1) nonheritability of cancer, because aneuploidy is not heritable; (2) long ‘neoplastic latencies’ by the low probability of evolving competitive new species; (3) nonselective phenotypes via genes hitchhiking on selective chromosomes, and (4) ‘immortality’, because chromosomal variations neutralize negative mutations and adapt to inhibitory conditions much faster than conventional mutation.PDF
Leukemia 9, 1573-1578 (2005).
Imatinib (STI571, Gleevec/Glivec) is a potent selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor and is used successfully in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). While karyotype alterations, in addition to the Philadelphia chromosome, are a common phenomenon of progressing CML, the observation of BCRABL-negative leukemic clones with distinct aberrant karyotypes under an imatinib regimen is not yet understood. Here we test the hypothesis that such tumor clones may be induced de novo from normal cells by imatinib. In vitro experiments with varying drug concentrations (5–20 lM) were performed on normal human dermal fibroblasts (NHDF), Chinese hamster embryonal and Indian muntjak fibroblasts. After 3 weeks of treatment, analysis of cell cultures by centrosome immunostaining and conventional cytogenetics revealed that imatinib induced centrosome and chromosome aberrations in all cultures in a significant dose-dependent and species-independent manner. Moreover, the results of NHDF long-term culture experiments demonstrated that aberrant phenotypes, emerging under imatinib treatment for 12 weeks, were not reversible after prolonged propagation omitting the drug. These observations suggest a causative role of imatinib in the origin of centrosome and karyotype aberrations (genetic instability) and thus may explain the emergence of clonal chromosomal abnormalities in BCR-ABL-negative progenitor cells under imatinib therapy.PDF
Cellular Oncology 27, 293-318 (2005).
Conventional genetic theories have failed to explain why cancer (1) is not heritable and thus extremely rare in newborns, (2) is caused by non-mutagenic carcinogens, (3) develops only years to decades after initiation by carcinogens, (4) follows pre-neoplastic aneuploidy, (5) is aneuploid, (6) is chromosomally and phenotypically “unstable”, (7) carries specific aneusomies, (8) generates much more complex phenotypes than conventional mutation such as multidrug resistance, (9) generates nonselective phenotypes such as metastasis (no benefit at native site) and “immortality” (not necessary for tumorigenesis), and (10) does not contain carcinogenic mutations. We propose, instead, that cancer is a chromosomal disease. Accordingly carcinogenesis is initiated by random aneuploidies, which are induced by carcinogens or spontaneously. Since aneuploidy unbalances 1000s of genes, it corrupts teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize and repair chromosomes. Aneuploidy is therefore a steady source of chromosomal variations from which, in classical Darwinian terms, selection encourages the evolution and malignant progression of cancer cells. The rates of specific chromosomal variations can exceed conventional mutations by 4–11 orders of magnitude, depending on the degrees of aneuploidy. Based on their chromosomal constitution cancer cells are new cell “species” with specific aneusomies, but unstable karyotypes. The cancer-specific aneusomies generate complex, malignant phenotypes through the abnormal dosages of 1000s of genes, just as trisomy 21 generates Down syndrome. In sum, cancer is caused by chromosomal disorganization, which increases karyotypic entropy. Thus, cancer is a chromosomal rather than a genetic disease. The chromosomal theory explains (1) non-heritable cancer because aneuploidy is not heritable, (2) non-mutagenic carcinogens as aneuploidogens, (3) long neoplastic latencies by the low probability of evolving new species, (4) nonselective phenotypes via genes hitchhiking with selective chromosomes, and (5) immortality because, through their cellular heterogeneity, cancers survive negative mutations and cytotoxic drugs via resistant subspecies.PDF
Cancer Genet Cytogenet 163, 44-56 (2005).
Conventional mutation-selection theories have failed to explain (i) how cancer cells become spontaneously resistant against cytotoxic drugs at rates of up to 1023 per cell generation, orders higher than gene mutation, even in cancer cells; (ii) why resistance far exceeds a challenging drugda state termed multidrug resistance; (iii) why resistance is associated with chromosomal alterations and proportional to their numbers; and (iv) why resistance is totally dependent on aneuploidy. We propose here that cancer-specific aneuploidy generates drug resistance via chromosomal alterations. According to this mechanism, aneuploidy varies the numbers and structures of chromosomes automatically, because it corrupts the many teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize, and repair chromosomes. Aneuploidy is thus a steady source of chromosomal variation from which, in classical Darwinian terms, resistance-specific aneusomies are selected in the presence of chemotherapeutic drugs. Some of the thousands of unselected genes that hitchhike with resistance-specific aneusomies can thus generate multidrug resistance. To test this hypothesis, we determined the rates of chromosomal alterations in clonal cultures of human breast and colon cancer lines by dividing the fraction of nonclonal karyotypes by the number of generations of the clone. These rates were about 1022 per cell generation, orders higher than mutation. Chromosome numbers and structures were determined in metaphases hybridized with color-coded chromosome-specific DNA probes. Further, we tested puromycin-resistant subclones of these lines for resistance-specific aneusomies. Resistant subclones differed from parental lines in four to seven specific aneusomies, of which different subclones shared some. The degree of resistance was roughly proportional to the number of these aneusomies. Thus, aneuploidy is the primary cause of the high rates and wide ranges of drug resistance in cancer cells.PDF
IUBMB Life 56, 65-81. (2004)
Cancers have a clonal origin, yet their chromosomes and genes are non-clonal or heterogeneous due to an inherent genomic instability. However, the cause of this genomic instability is still debated. One theory postulates that mutations in genes that are involved in DNA repair and in chromosome segregation are the primary causes of this instability. But there are neither consistent correlations nor is there functional proof for the mutation theory. Here we propose aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, as the primary cause of the genomic instability of neoplastic and preneoplastic cells. Aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype and thus the species, independent of mutation, because it corrupts highly conserved teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize and repair chromosomes. Likewise it destabilizes genes. The theory explains 12 of 12 specific features of genomic instability: (1) Mutagenic and nonmutagenic carcinogens induce genomic instability via aneuploidy. (2) Aneuploidy coincides and segregates with preneoplastic and neoplastic genomic instability. (3) Phenotypes of genomically unstable cells change and even revert at high rates, compared to those of diploid cells, via aneuploidy-catalyzed chromosome rearrangements. (4) Idiosyncratic features of cancers, like immortality and drug-resistance, derive from subspecies within the ‘polyphyletic’ diversity of individual cancers. (5) Instability is proportional to the degree of aneuploidy. (6) Multilateral chromosomal and genetic instabilities typically coincide, because aneuploidy corrupts multiple targets simultaneously. (7) Gene mutation is common, but neither consistent nor clonal in cancer cells as predicted by the aneuploidy theory. (8) Cancers fall into a near-diploid (2 N) class of low instability, a near 1.5 N class of high instability, or a near 3 N class of very high instability, because aneuploid fitness is maximized either by minimally unstable karyotypes or by maximally unstable, but adaptable karyotypes. (9) Dominant phenotypes, because of aneuploid genotypes. (10) Uncertain developmental phenotypes of Down and other aneuploidy syndromes, because supply-sensitive, diploid programs are destabilized by products from aneuploid genes supplied at abnormal concentrations; the maternal age-bias for Down’s would reflect age-dependent defects of the spindle apparatus of oocytes. (11) Non-selective phenotypes, e.g., metastasis, because of linkage with selective phenotypes on the same chromosomes. (12) The target, induction of genomic instability, is several 1000-fold bigger than gene mutation, because it is entire chromosomes. The mutation theory explains only a few of these features. We conclude that the transition of stable diploid to unstable aneuploid cell species is the primary cause of preneoplastic and neoplastic genomic instability and of cancer, and that mutations are secondary.PDF
Cell Cycle 3, 823-828 (2004).
On January 23–26, 2004, a meeting, termed the 1st Conference on Aneuploidy and Cancer: Clinical and Experimental Aspects, united about 70 cancer researchers at the Waterfront Plaza Hotel in Oakland. The conference was organized by two of us (Duesberg P, Rasnick D) to evaluate the theory that aneuploidy is sufficient to cause cancer. The abstracts or short papers of the participants are recorded in the Scientific Program & Abstracts booklet of the conference, which is available on request from the conference bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org. An independent meeting report has since also been published in The Scientist.PDF
Cell Cycle 2, 202-210 (2003).
Carcinogenesis is a multistep process in which new, parasitic and polymorphic cancer cells evolve from a single, normal diploid cell. This normal cell is converted to a prospective cancer cell, alias "initiated", either by a carcinogen or spontaneously. The initiated cell typically does not have a new distinctive phenotype yet, but evolves spontaneously—over months to decades—to a clinical cancer. The cells of a primary cancer also evolve spon- taneously towards more and more malignant phenotypes. The outstanding genotype of initiated and cancer cells is aneuploidy, an abnormal balance of chromosomes, which increases and varies in proportion with malignancy. The driving force of the spontaneous evolution of initiated and cancerous cells to ever more abnormal phenotypes is said to be their "genetic instability". However, since neither the instability of cancer phenotypes nor the characteristically slow kinetics of carcinogenesis are compatible with gene mutation, we propose here that the driving force of carcinogenesis is the inherent instability of aneuploid karyotypes. Aneuploidy renders chromosome structure and segregation error- prone, because it unbalances mitosis proteins and the many teams of enzymes that synthesize and maintain chromosomes. Thus, carcinogenesis is initiated by a random aneuploidy, which is induced either by a carcinogen or spontaneously. The resulting karyotype instability sets off a chain reaction of aneuploidizations, which generate ever more abnormal and eventually cancer-specific combinations and rearrangements of chromosomes. According to this hypothesis the many abnormal phenotypes of cancer are generated by abnormal dosages of thousands of aneuploid, but un-mutated genes.PDF
Cancer Res., 61: 8838-8844, 2001. Cancer Res. 62:6345-8; author reply 6348-9 (2002).
Letter to the EditorPDF
PNAS May 14, 2002 99 (10) 6778-6783; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.251670699
Aneuploidy is ubiquitous in cancer, and its phenotypes are inevitably dominant and abnormal. In view of these facts we recently proposed that aneuploidy is sufficient for carcinogenesis generating cancer-specific aneusomies via a chain reaction of autocatalytic aneuploidizations. According to this hypothesis a carcinogen initiates carcinogenesis via a random aneuploidy. Aneuploidy then generates transformation stage-specific aneusomies and further random aneusomies autocatalytically, because it renders chromosome segregation and repair mechanisms error-prone. The hypothesis predicts that several specific aneusomies can cause the same cancers, because several chromosomes also cooperate in normal differentiation. Here we describe experiments on the Chinese hamster (CH) that confirm this hypothesis. (i) Random aneuploidy was detected before transformation in up to 90% of CH embryo cells treated with the carcinogen nitrosomethylurea (NMU). (ii) Several specific aneusomies were found in 70–100% of the aneuploid cells from colonies transformed with NMU in vitro and from tumors generated by NMU-transformed cells in syngeneic animals. Among the aneuploid in vitro transformed cells, 79% were trisomic for chromosome 3, and 59% were monosomic for chromosome 10, compared with 8% expected for random distribution of any aneusomy among the 12 CH chromosomes. Moreover, 52% shared both trisomy 3 and monosomy 10 compared with 0.6% expected for random distribution of any two aneusomies. Among the tumor cells, 65% were trisomic for chromosome 3, 51% were trisomic for chromosome 5, and 30% shared both trisomies. Aneuploid cells without these specific aneusomies may contain minor transformation-specific aneusomies or may be untransformed. (iii) Random aneusomies and structurally altered chromosomes increased with the generations of transformed cells to the point where their origins became unidentifiable in tumors. We conclude that specific aneusomies are necessary for carcinogenesis.Link
Current Science 81, 490-500 (2001).
The mutagenic ranges of aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, and gene mutation are analyzed for their abilities to cause the dominant phenotypes of cancer. In the cell, activating gene mutations are buffered because virtually all gene products are kinetically linked into biochemical assembly lines and thus functionally controlled by upstream and downstream enzymes working at their native rates. Inactivating mutations are also buffered, because (i) they are oversupplied with substrate from unmutated upstream enzymes, (ii) are functionally complemented by a second un-mutated allele, and (iii) because in the cell all enzymes work far below saturation. Therefore, gene mutations are typically recessive and thus unable to generate dominant phenotypes. The argument, that all hypothetically carcinogenic gene mutations are exceptional dominants, is hard to reconcile with their failure to transform cells in vitro and in transgenic animals. By contrast, numerical variations of chromosomes, encoding complete biochemical assembly lines, inevitably generate dominant phenotypes, consider the chromosomes that determine sex or Down syndrome. Thus aneuploidy above an as yet poorly defined threshold emerges as the only plausible mutation to cause the dominant phenotypes of cancer. The aneuploidy hypothesis also explains the exceedingly long latent periods, years to decades, between carcinogen and carcinogenesis. Since aneuploidy destabilizes mitosis by unbalancing mitosis proteins, it catalyzes karyotype evolution that eventually generates carcinogenic karyotypes. Three predictions of the hypothesis have been confirmed experimentally, (i) that human cancer cells, reportedly generated by ‘three defined genetic elements’, are aneuploid, (ii) that an ‘immortal’ liver cell line, reportedly safe for human transplantation, is aneuploid and thus preneoplastic, (iii) that the high mutation rates of cancer cells to drug and multidrugresistance are due to chromosome reassortments.PDF
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98, 11283-11288 (2001).
Cancer cells and aneuploid cell lines can acquire resistance against multiple unrelated chemotherapeutic drugs that are over 3,000-fold those of normal levels and display spontaneous resistances up to 20-fold of normal levels. Two different mechanisms were proposed for this phenotype: (i) classical mutation of drug metabolizing genes or (ii) chromosome reassortments, catalyzed by cancer- and cell line-specific aneuploidy, which generate, via new gene dosage combinations, a plethora of cancer phenotypes, including drug resistance. To distinguish between these mechanisms, we have asked whether three mouse cell lines can become drug resistant, from which two or three genes have been deleted, and on which multidrug resistance is thought to depend: Mdr1a, Mdr1b, and Mrp1. Because all three lines could acquire multidrug resistance and were aneuploid, whereas diploid mouse cells could not, we conclude that aneuploid cells become drug resistant via specific chromosome assortments, independent of putative resistance genes. We have asked further whether aneuploid drug-resistant Chinese hamster cells revert spontaneously to drug sensitivity in the absence of cytotoxic drugs at the high rates that are typical of chromosome reassortments catalyzed by aneuploidy or at the very low or zero rates (i.e., deletion) of gene mutation. We found that four drug-resistant hamster cell lines reverted to drug sensitivity at rates of about 2–3% per generation, whereas two closely related lines remained resistant under our conditions. Thus, the karyotypic instability generated by aneuploidy emerges as the common source of the various levels of drug resistance of cancer cells: minor spontaneous resistances reflect accidental chromosome assortments, the high selected resistances reflect complex specific assortments, and multidrug resistance reflects new combinations of unselected genes located on the same chromosomes as selected genes.Link
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97, 14295-14300 (2000).
The mutation rates of cancer cells to drug and multidrug resistance are paradoxically high, i.e., 10−3 to 10−6, compared with those altering phenotypes of recessive genes in normal diploid cells of about 10−12. Here the hypothesis was investigated that these mutations are due to chromosome reassortments that are catalyzed by aneuploidy. Aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, is the most common genetic abnormality of cancer cells and is known to change phenotypes (e.g., Down's syndrome). Moreover, we have shown recently that aneuploidy autocatalyzes reassortments of up to 2% per chromosome per mitosis because it unbalances spindle proteins, even centrosome numbers, via gene dosage. The hypothesis predicts that a selected phenotype is associated with multiple unselected ones, because chromosome reassortments unbalance simultaneously thousands of regulatory and structural genes. It also predicts variants of a selected phenotype based on variant reassortments. To test our hypothesis we have investigated in parallel the mutation rates of highly aneuploid and of normal diploid Chinese hamster cells to resistance against puromycin, cytosine arabinoside, colcemid, and methotrexate. The mutation rates of aneuploid cells ranged from 10−4 to 10−6, but no drug-resistant mutants were obtained from diploid cells in our conditions. Further selection increased drug resistance at similar mutation rates. Mutants selected from cloned cells for resistance against one drug displayed different unselected phenotypes, e.g., polygonal or fusiform cellular morphology, flat or three-dimensional colonies, and resistances against other unrelated drugs. Thus our hypothesis offers a unifying explanation for the high mutation rates of aneuploid cancer cells and for the association of selected with unselected phenotypes, e.g., multidrug resistance. It also predicts drug-specific chromosome combinations that could become a basis for selecting alternative chemotherapy against drug-resistant cancer.Link
Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton 47, 81-107 (2000).
The many complex phenotypes of cancer have all been attributed to “somatic mutation.” These phenotypes include anaplasia, autonomous growth, metastasis, abnormal cell morphology, DNA indices ranging from 0.5 to over 2, clonal origin but unstable and non-clonal karyotypes and phenotypes, abnormal centrosome numbers, immortality in vitro and in transplantation, spontaneous progression of malignancy, as well as the exceedingly slow kinetics from carcinogen to carcinogenesis of many months to decades. However, it has yet to be determined whether this mutation is aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, or gene mutation. A century ago, Boveri proposed cancer is caused by aneuploidy, because it correlates with cancer and because it generates “pathological” phenotypes in sea urchins. But half a century later, when cancers were found to be non-clonal for aneuploidy, but clonal for somatic gene mutations, this hypothesis was abandoned. As a result aneuploidy is now generally viewed as a consequence, and mutated genes as a cause of cancer although, (1) many carcinogens do not mutate genes, (2) there is no functional proof that mutant genes cause cancer, and (3) mutation is fast but carcinogenesis is exceedingly slow. Intrigued by the enormous mutagenic potential of aneuploidy, we undertook biochemical and biological analyses of aneuploidy and gene mutation, which show that aneuploidy is probably the only mutation that can explain all aspects of carcinogenesis. On this basis we can now offer a coherent two-stage mechanism of carcinogenesis. In stage one, carcinogens cause aneuploidy, either by fragmenting chromosomes or by damaging the spindle apparatus. In stage two, ever new and eventually tumorigenic karyotypes evolve autocatalytically because aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype, ie. causes genetic instability. Thus, cancer cells derive their unique and complex phenotypes from random chromosome number mutation, a process that is similar to regrouping assembly lines of a car factory and is analogous to speciation. The slow kinetics of carcinogenesis reflects the low probability of generating by random chromosome reassortments a karyotype that surpasses the viability of a normal cell, similar again to natural speciation. There is correlative and functional proof of principle: (1) solid cancers are aneuploid; (2) genotoxic and non-genotoxic carcinogens cause aneuploidy; (3) the biochemical phenotypes of cells are severely altered by aneuploidy affecting the dosage of thousands of genes, but are virtually un-altered by mutations of known hypothetical oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes; (4) aneuploidy immortalizes cells; (5) non-cancerous aneuploidy generates abnormal phenotypes in all species tested, e.g., Down syndrome; (6) the degrees of aneuploidies are proportional to the degrees of abnormalities in non-cancerous and cancerous cells; (7) polyploidy also varies biological phenotypes; (8) variation of the numbers of chromosomes is the basis of speciation. Thus, aneuploidy falls within the definition of speciation, and cancer is a species of its own. The aneuploidy hypothesis offers new prospects of cancer prevention and therapy.PDF
Cancer Genetics and Cytogenetics 119, 83-93 (2000).
A century ago, Boveri proposed that cancer is caused by aneuploidy, an abnormal balance of chromosomes, because aneuploidy correlates with cancer and because experimental aneuploidy generates “pathological” phenotypes. Half a century later, when cancers were found to be nonclonal for aneuploidy, but clonal for somatic gene mutations, this hypothesis was abandoned. As a result, aneuploidy is now generally viewed as a consequence, and mutated genes as a cause of cancer. However, we have recently proposed a two-stage mechanism of carcinogenesis that resolves the discrepancy between clonal mutation and nonclonal karyotypes. The proposal is as follows: in stage 1, a carcinogen “initiates” carcinogenesis by generating a preneoplastic aneuploidy; in stage 2, aneuploidy causes asymmetric mitosis because it biases balance-sensitive spindle and chromosomal proteins and alters centrosomes both numerically and structurally (in proportion to the degree of aneuploidy). Therefore, the karyotype of an initiated cell evolves autocatalytically, generating ever-new chromosome combinations, including neoplastic ones. Accordingly, the heterogeneous karyotypes of “clonal” cancers are an inevitable consequence of the karyotypic instability of aneuploid cells. The notorious long latent periods, of months to decades, from carcinogen to carcinogenesis, would reflect the low probability of evolving by chance karyotypes that compete favorably with normal cells, in principle analagous to natural evolution. Here, we have confirmed experimentally five predictions of the aneuploidy hypothesis: (1) the carcinogens dimethylbenzanthracene and cytosine arabinoside induced aneuploidy in a fraction of treated Chinese hamster embryo cells; (2) aneuploidy preceded malignant transformation; (3) transformation of carcinogen-treated cells occurred only months after carcinogen treatment, i.e., autocatalytically; (4) preneoplastic aneuploidy segregated with malignant transformation in vitro and with 14 of 14 tumors in animals; and (5) karyotypes of tumors were heterogeneous. We conclude that, with the carcinogens studied, aneuploidy precedes cancer and is necessary for carcinogenesis.PDF
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97, 3236-3241 (2000).
For nearly a century, cancer has been blamed on somatic mutation. But it is still unclear whether this mutation is aneuploidy, an abnormal balance of chromosomes, or gene mutation. Despite enormous efforts, the currently popular gene mutation hypothesis has failed to identify cancer-specific mutations with transforming function and cannot explain why cancer occurs only many months to decades after mutation by carcinogens and why solid cancers are aneuploid, although conventional mutation does not depend on karyotype alteration. A recent high-profile publication now claims to have solved these discrepancies with a set of three synthetic mutant genes that “suffices to convert normal human cells into tumorigenic cells.” However, we show here that even this study failed to explain why it took more than “60 population doublings” from the introduction of the first of these genes, a derivative of the tumor antigen of simian virus 40 tumor virus, to generate tumor cells, why the tumor cells were clonal although gene transfer was polyclonal, and above all, why the tumor cells were aneuploid. If aneuploidy is assumed to be the somatic mutation that causes cancer, all these results can be explained. The aneuploidy hypothesis predicts the long latent periods and the clonality on the basis of the following two-stage mechanism: stage one, a carcinogen (or mutant gene) generates aneuploidy; stage two, aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype and thus initiates an autocatalytic karyotype evolution generating preneoplastic and eventually neoplastic karyotypes. Because the odds are very low that an abnormal karyotype will surpass the viability of a normal diploid cell, the evolution of a neoplastic cell species is slow and thus clonal, which is comparable to conventional evolution of new species.Link
Biochem J, 340, 621-630 (1999)
The complexity and diversity of cancer-specific phenotypes, including de-differentiation, invasiveness, metastasis, abnormal morphology and metabolism, genetic instability and progression to malignancy, have so far eluded explanation by a simple, coherent hypothesis. However, an adaptation of Metabolic Control Analysis supports the 100-year-old hypothesis that aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, is the cause of cancer. The results demonstrate the currently counter-intuitive principle that it is the fraction of the genome undergoing differential expression, not the magnitude of the differential expression, that controls phenotypic transformation. Transforming the robust normal phenotype into cancer requires a twofold increase in the expression of thousands of normal gene products. The massive change in gene dose produces highly nonlinear (i.e. qualitative) changes in the physiology and metabolism of cells and tissues. Since aneuploidy disrupts the natural balance of mitosis proteins, it also explains the notorious genetic instability of cancer cells as a consequence of the perpetual regrouping of chromosomes. In view of this and the existence of non-cancerous aneuploidy, we propose that cancer is the phenotype of cells above a certain threshold of aneuploidy. This threshold is reached either by the gradual, stepwise increase in the level of aneuploidy as a consequence of the autocatalysed genetic instability of aneuploid cells or by tetraploidization followed by a gradual loss of chromosomes. Thus the initiation step of carcinogenesis produces aneuploidy below the threshold for cancer, and the promotion step increases the level of aneuploidy above this threshold. We conclude that aneuploidy offers a simple and coherent explanation for all the cancerspecific phenotypes. Accordingly, the gross biochemical abnormalities, abnormal cellular size and morphology, the appearance of tumour-associated antigens, the high levels of inhibition, and even the daunting genetic instability that enables cancer cells to evade chemotherapy, are all the natural consequence of the massive over- and under-expression of proteins.PDF
Anticancer Res 19, 4887-4906 (1999).
It has been difficult to find a common cause for the many and complex phenotypes of cancer such as dedifferentiation, invasiveness, abnormal morphology, growth rate and metabolism, genetic instability, progression to malignancy, cellular heterogeneity of phenotypes and karyotypes, and clonal origin despite heterogeneity. Over 100 years ago aneuploidy, an abnormal balance of chromosomes, was proposed to cause cancer. However, the aneuploidy hypothesis has since been abandoned, in favor of the gene mutation hypothesis, because it could not offer conventional explanations for cancer-specific phenotypes. For example, the aneuploidy hypothesis seemed unable to (i) explain the genesis of abnormal, cancer-specific phenotypes, (ii) reconcile the heterogeneous karyotypes with the clonal origin of cancers, (iii) explain aneuploidy in non-cancerous cells, and (iv) explain how carcinogens would cause aneuploidy. Here we introduce new evidence that aneuploidy offers a simple, coherent explanation of all cancer-specific phenotypes: (i) Congenital and experimental aneuploidy is now known to generate abnormal phenotypes, such as Down syndrome in humans and cancer in animals. (ii) Based on metabolic control analysis, we have derived equations that correlate degrees of aneuploidy with the resulting phenotype abnormalities. These equations suggest that aneuploidy must exceed a certain threshold to generate cancer-specific phenotypes. Therefore, we propose that multistep carcinogenesis corresponds to multiple steps of aneuploidization. (iii) Aneuploidy is also sufficient to explain cancer-specific, karyotypic instability. Since aneuploidy imbalances the highly balance-sensitive components of the spindle apparatus it destabilizes symmetrical chromosome segregation. This autocatalytic instability is the reason why cancers have heterogeneous karyotypes, but are clonal for aneuploidy. Progression to malignancy corresponds to selection of ever more aggressive karyotypic variants. (iv) Both non-genotoxic and genotoxic carcinogens can cause aneuploidy by physical or chemical interaction with mitosis proteins. We conclude that aneuploidy offers a mechanism of phenotype alteration which--above a certain threshold--is sufficient to cause all cancer-specific phenotypes, and is independent of gene mutation.Link
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95, 13692-13697 (1998).
Genetic and phenotypic instability are hallmarks of cancer cells, but their cause is not clear. The leading hypothesis suggests that a poorly defined gene mutation generates genetic instability and that some of many subsequent mutations then cause cancer. Here we investigate the hypothesis that genetic instability of cancer cells is caused by aneuploidy, an abnormal balance of chromosomes. Because symmetrical segregation of chromosomes depends on exactly two copies of mitosis genes, aneuploidy involving chromosomes with mitosis genes will destabilize the karyotype. The hypothesis predicts that the degree of genetic instability should be proportional to the degree of aneuploidy. Thus it should be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the particular karyotype of a highly aneuploid cancer cell on clonal propagation. This prediction was confirmed with clonal cultures of chemically transformed, aneuploid Chinese hamster embryo cells. It was found that the higher the ploidy factor of a clone, the more unstable was its karyotype. The ploidy factor is the quotient of the modal chromosome number divided by the normal number of the species. Transformed Chinese hamster embryo cells with a ploidy factor of 1.7 were estimatedto change their karyotype at a rate of about 3% per generation, compared with 1.8% for cells with a ploidy factor of 0.95. Because the background noise of karyotyping is relatively high, the cells with low ploidy factor may be more stable than our method suggests. The karyotype instability of human colon cancer cell lines, recently analyzed by Lengnauer et al. [Lengnauer, C., Kinzler, K. W. & Vogelstein, B. (1997) Nature (London) 386, 623–627], also corresponds exactly to their degree of aneuploidy. We conclude that aneuploidy is sufficient to explain genetic instability and the resulting karyotypic and phenotypic heterogeneity of cancer cells, independent of gene mutation. Because aneuploidy has also been proposed to cause cancer, our hypothesis offers a common, unique mechanism of altering and simultaneously destabilizing normal cellular phenotypes.PDF
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 94, 14506-14511 (1997).
Aneuploidy or chromosome imbalance is the most massive genetic abnormality of cancer cells. It used to be considered the cause of cancer when it was discovered more than 100 years ago. Since the discovery of the gene, the aneuploidy hypothesis has lost ground to the hypothesis that mutation of cellular genes causes cancer. According to this hypothesis, cancers are diploid and aneuploidy is secondary or nonessential. Here we reexamine the aneuploidy hypothesis in view of the fact that nearly all solid cancers are aneuploid, that many carcinogens are nongenotoxic, and that mutated genes from cancer cells do not transform diploid human or animal cells. By regrouping the gene pool—as in speciation—aneuploidy inevitably will alter many genetic programs. This genetic revolution can explain the numerous unique properties of cancer cells, such as invasiveness, dedifferentiation, distinct morphology, and specific surface antigens, much better than gene mutation, which is limited by the conservation of the existing chromosome structure. To determine whether aneuploidy is a cause or a consequence of transformation, we have analyzed the chromosomes of Chinese hamster embryo (CHE) cells transformed in vitro. This system allows (i) detection of transformation within 2 months and thus about 5 months sooner than carcinogenesis and (ii) the generation of many more transformants per cost than carcinogenesis. To minimize mutation of cellular genes, we have used nongenotoxic carcinogens. It was found that 44 out of 44 colonies of CHE cells transformed by benz[a]pyrene, methylcholanthrene, dimethylbenzanthracene, and colcemid, or spontaneously were between 50 and 100% aneuploid. Thus, aneuploidy originated with transformation. Two of two chemically transformed colonies tested were tumorigenic 2 months after inoculation into hamsters. The cells of transformed colonies were heterogeneous in chromosome number, consistent with the hypothesis that aneuploidy can perpetually destabilize the chromosome number because it unbalances the elements of the mitotic apparatus. Considering that all 44 transformed colonies analyzed were aneuploid, and the early association between aneuploidy, transformation, and tumorigenicity, we conclude that aneuploidy is the cause rather than a consequence of transformation.PDF