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Transmissible cancer and the evolution of sex


Thomas, F and Madsen, T and Giraudeau, M and Misse, D and Hamede, R and Vincze, O and Renaud, F and Roche, B and Ujvari, B, Transmissible cancer and the evolution of sex, PLoS Biology, 17, (6) Article 3000275. ISSN 1544-9173 (2019) [Refereed Article]

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2019 Thomas et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000275


The origin and subsequent maintenance of sex and recombination are among the most elusive and controversial problems in evolutionary biology. Here, we propose a novel hypothesis, suggesting that sexual reproduction not only evolved to reduce the negative effects of the accumulation of deleterious mutations and processes associated with pathogen and/or parasite resistance but also to prevent invasion by transmissible selfish neoplastic cheater cells, henceforth referred to as transmissible cancer cells. Sexual reproduction permits systematic change of the multicellular organism's genotype and hence an enhanced detection of transmissible cancer cells by immune system. Given the omnipresence of oncogenic processes in multicellular organisms, together with the fact that transmissible cancer cells can have dramatic effects on their host fitness, our scenario suggests that the benefits of sex and concomitant recombination will be large and permanent, explaining why sexual reproduction is, despite its costs, the dominant mode of reproduction among eukaryotes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:cancers and neoplasms; malignant tumors; sexual reproduction; parasite evoloution; evolutionary biology; evolutionary immunology
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Oncology and carcinogenesis
Research Field:Cancer genetics
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Hamede, R (Dr Rodrigo Hamede Ross)
UTAS Author:Ujvari, B (Dr Beata Ujvari)
ID Code:152887
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Research Performance and Analysis
Deposited On:2022-08-26
Last Modified:2022-09-13
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

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