Applying ecological and evolutionary sciences to human health research, a discipline known as evolutionary medicine, is a rapidly growing field at the international level but still remains little developed in France.The CREEC Institute (Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Cancer Research), created in Montpellier in 2012, is a first step toward of the integration this discipline in France.
All types of cancer research are based on approaches related to evolutionary ecology. Although theories of cancer initiation and progression are deeply rooted in evolutionary and ecological concepts*, many promising opportunities for the application of evolutionary biology to carcinogenesis and oncology remain unexplored. In addition, although cancer is a disease that affects most metazoan species, its influence on ecosystem functioning is currently unknown.
CREEC’s main objectives are:
- to improve our understanding of the origin and the evolution of cancer since the dawn of multicellularity and to determine how this disease interferes with biotic interactions that govern ecosystems (competition, predation, parasitism),
- to apply evolutionary principles to help predict emergence and metastatic progression with the aim of improving therapies,
- to gain acceptance by the medical establishment by demonstrating the relevance of these complementary studies to traditional approaches. The centre will act as an organization open to all and a place of privileged exchanges and collaborations between national and international specialists in various disciplines (mathematics, cellular biology, evolutionary biology, and clinical research) who are working on cancer.
*Cairns J. 1975. Mutation selection and the natural history of cancer. Nature 255: 197–200.
*Nowell P.C. 1976. The clonal evolution of tumour cell populations. Science 194: 23-28.