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New book in Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology: Rethinking Cancer

News from The MIT Press

Cambridge, MA, April 2020

Current consensus in cancer research explains cancer as a disease caused by specific mutations in certain genes. Thanks to dramatic advances in genome sequencing, never before have we known so much about the individual cancer cell—and yet it is still unclear how to use this knowledge for treatment success. In this volume, leading researchers argue for a new theory framework for understanding and treating cancer. The contributors propose a complex systems view of cancer, presenting conceptual building blocks for a new research paradigm supported by empirical evidence.

The contributors first discuss the new research framework in terms of theoretical foundations and then take up the relevance of a systems approach, reviewing such topics as nonlinearity, recurrence after treatment, the cellular attractor concept, network theory, and noncoding DNA—the “dark matter” of our genome. They address the temporality of cancer progression, drawing on evolutionary theory and clinical experience. Finally, they cover the dominant role of the tissue microenvironment in cancer, analyzing topics including altered metabolic pathways, the disease-defining influence on metastasis, and the interconnectedness of different environmental niches across levels of organization.

This volume is part of the Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology publishing results based on outcomes of international workshops held at the KLI (Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Austria). This particular collection is the outcome of the 2017 workshop A Revised Theory of Cancer, co-organized by Mina J. Bissell (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories), Ingemar Ernberg (Karolinska Institutet), and Bernhard Strauss (University of Cambridge)

Bernhard Strauss is Senior Research Associate in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.

Marta Bertolaso is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Science in the Faculty of Engineering at Università Campus Bio-Medico in Rome.

Ingemar Ernberg is Professor of Tumor Biology at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor, and Cell Biology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Mina J. Bissell is Distinguished Scientist in the Biological Systems and Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Rethinking Cancer Evolution

Edited by Bernhard Strauss, Marta Bertolaso, Ingemar Ernberg, and Mina J. Bissell


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262045506 328 pp. | 6 in x 9 in

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Media Contact: MIT Press Publicity Team,