How is the evolution of tumour resistance at organ-scale impacted by the importance of the organ for fitness?

Authors: Cindy Gidoin, Beata Ujvari, Frédéric Thomas and Benjamin Roche

Source: BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2018, 18:185

Brief summary of the paper:


A strong variability in cancer incidence is observed between human organs. Recently, it has been suggested that the relative contribution of organs to organism fitness (reproduction or survival) could explain at least a part of the observed variation.

The objective of this study is to investigate theoretically the main factors driving the evolution of tumour resistance mechanisms of organs when their relative contribution to organism fitness is considered. We use a population-scale model where individuals can develop a tumour in a key organ (i.e. in which even a small tumour can negatively impact organism fitness), an auxiliary organ (i.e. in which only a large tumour has a relatively significant impact) or both organs because of metastasis.


Our simulations show that natural selection acts in two different ways to prevent cancer in a key and an auxiliary organs. In the key organ, the strategy mostly selected is the highest resistance and only a high cost of resistance mitigates this behavior.

Inversely, we observe that a low resistance strategy can be selected in the auxiliary organ when the development of the tumour is slow and the effect of a large tumour on the mortality of the organism is relatively weak. Nevertheless, if the tumour can spread to a key organ, higher resistance strategies are selected in the auxiliary organ.


Finally, our study demonstrates that the relative contribution of organs to the organism fitness and the metastatic propensity of the tumour influence the evolution of tumour resistance at organ scale and should be considered by studies aiming to explain the variability in cancer incidence at organ-scale.

Urban environment and cancer in wildlife available evidence and future research avenues

Authors: Tuul Sepp , Beata Ujvari , Paul W. Ewald , Frédéric Thomas and Mathieu Giraudeau

SourceThe Royal Society, Volume 286, Issue 1894 (Published: 02 January 2019)

Brief summary of the paper: While it is generally known that the risk of several cancers in humans is higher in urban areas compared with rural areas, cancer is often deemed a problem of human societies with modern lifestyles.

At the same time, more and more wild animals are affected by urbanization processes and are faced with the need to adapt or acclimate to urban conditions. These include, among other things, increased exposure to an assortment of pollutants (e.g. chemicals, light and noise), novel types of food and new infections.

According to the abundant literature available for humans, all of these factors are associated with an increased probability of developing cancerous neoplasias; however, the link between the urban environment and cancer in wildlife has not been discussed in the scientific literature.

Here, we describe the available evidence linking environmental changes resulting from urbanization to cancer-related physiological changes in wild animals. We identify the knowledge gaps in this field and suggest future research avenues, with the ultimate aim of understanding how our modern lifestyle affects cancer prevalence in urbanizing wild populations.

In addition, we consider the possibilities of using urban wild animal populations as models to study the association between environmental factors and cancer epidemics in humans, as well as to understand the evolution of cancer and defence mechanisms against it.

Beata Ujvari to receive the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Ideas 2018

The Deakin University Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Ideas recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions to research made by staff encapsulating and implementing the IDEAS pillar of Deakin’s strategic agenda, LIVE the future, to ‘make a difference through world-class innovation and research.’

2018 V-C Awards @ Deakin Uni

The Vice-Chancellor’s Award for International Research Collaboration recognises the Laboratory without Borders international team which applies evolutionary principleas and ecological approaches to cancer.

Cancer is not only a major cause of mortality worldwide that touches nearly every family, but also a disease which affects all other multicellular organisms. Despite this, oncology and other biological sciences such as ecology and evolution have until very recently developed in relative isolation.

The team’s approach breaks novel ground – both experimentally and theoretically – in the understanding of cancer progression and its work will reshape the conceptual landscape of cancer biology, evolutionary ecology and biology.

Deakin University joins the Nicolas Baudin Internships in France Initiative

Christophe Penot, Ambassador of France to Australia, was welcomed on 20 November at Deakin University (Melbourne)  for a meeting devoted to the development of the university’s relations with France.

Picture by Simon Fox, Deakin University

The meeting highlighted some of the collaborations established between Deakin and France, which will be able to benefit from this program. In particular, research work brought up regarding the prevention and treatment of cancer, carried out in collaboration with the CNRS in the framework of the associated international CANECEV laboratory which was set up during the visit of the President of the Republic to Australia in May 2018.

Read more @ the Embassy of France in Canberra website.

World “One Health” Day 2018 @ Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Join us on Nov 15 for GCEID’s World” One Health” Day. Hear @Deakin University researchers Dr Beata Ujvari talk about transmissible cancer in wildlife and Dr Daniel Dlugolenski talk about bird flu.

This event will showcase how researchers in Geelong are undertaking collaborative research to protect people, animals and the environment from infectious diseases.

This is an open house event, please feel free to drop in at any point throughout the day (this is a free event).

When: Thursday 15 November 2018 between 10am and 3pm.

Where: St Mary’s Building, 190 Myers Street, Geelong, 3220.

For more details and registration please visit GCEID’s website.

Social environment mediates cancer progression in Drosophila

Authors: Erika H. Dawson, Tiphaine P. M. Bailly, Julie Dos Santos, Céline Moreno, Maëlle Devilliers, Brigitte Maroni, Cédric Sueur, Andreu Casali, Beata Ujvari, Frederic Thomas, Jacques Montagne & Frederic Mery

SourceNature Communicationsvolume 9, Article number: 3574 (Published: 03 September 2018)

Brief summary of the paper: The influence of oncogenic phenomena on the ecology and evolution of animal species is becoming an important research topic.

Similar to host–pathogen interactions, cancer negatively affects host fitness, which should lead to the selection of host control mechanisms, including behavioral traits that best minimize the proliferation of malignant cells. Social behavior is suggested to influence tumor progression. While the ecological benefits of sociality in gregarious species are widely acknowledged, only limited data are available on the role of the social environment on cancer progression.

Here, we exposed adult Drosophila, with colorectal-like tumors, to different social environments. We show how subtle variations in social structure have dramatic effects on the progression of tumor growth.

Finally, we reveal that flies can discriminate between individuals at different stages of tumor development and selectively choose their social environment accordingly. Our study demonstrates the reciprocal links between cancer and social interactions and how sociality may impact health and fitness in animals and its potential implications for disease ecology.

Can species be genetically doomed? Watch Jay’s video assignment for honours 2018 @ Deakin University

We are happy to share Jay Fitzpatrick‘s video assignment for honours 2018 @ Deakin University, exploring a scientific paper that discovered that thylacines were genetically doomed before human settlement in Australia.

Jay Fitzpatrick  – Honours student, co-supervised with Dr Rodrigo Hamede from University of Tasmania.
Topic of research –  “the role of the innate immune system in DFTD progression and epidemiology“.