The fight against cancer has been one of the most perplexing in medicine. Despite exhaustive research on treatments and combative methods, the many forms of this resilient disease continues posing one of the most serious health threats and remains a leading cause of death in populations around the world.


While a majority of cancer research and therapy to date have focused on the goal of targeting and killing cancer cells directly, researchers from Arizona State University are now offering up a new methodology. The foundation of their proposed approach, though, is not what one would expect. Rather than focusing on medicine and medical principles specifically, the focus is on paleontology.


According to Dr. Carlo Maley, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and School of Life Sciences, there is a serious value in harnessing our ability to understand species extinction and applying it to the fight against cancer.


Researchers believe that learning from past species extinction may be an important step in learning how to better control cancer (

Researchers believe that learning from past species extinction may be an important step in learning how to better control cancer (

The theory is that rather than aggressively attacking cancer cells, which may only result in enriching cells’ resistance to treatment, cancer cells may be eradicated when the environment on which they rely for survival — i.e. the body — is rendered uninhabitable. This can be best achieved through a process called background extinction, which can help address the concern of eradicating cancer cells while leaving other cells within the body unharmed.


Researchers acknowledge that there is a lot to examine regarding the possible link between species extinction and its applicability in oncology. The basis of this research introduces an important principle — one that is valuable not only in medicine, but a range of different fields, particularly those like communication.


In fields that are so heavily rooted in the circulation of information, the focus remains largely on information production. Creating fresh content for audiences in an effort to continue moving forward offers similarities to efforts made in medicine to further medical research by making new discoveries.


What this research shows us, however, is that some of the most promising progress can be made not just when we attempt to develop new information and insights, but when we simply take a more critical look at the wealth of information that already exists before use.


With thousands of years worth of history and knowledge at our disposal, it is essential to be able to connect the dots between past and present; between the seemingly unrelated pieces of information we have collected throughout time. In doing so, we present the possibility of producing new information based solely on our ability to apply information we already knew in new ways, to new problems.

How do you think medical research will benefit from this intriguing application of our knowledge about extinction to the eradication of cancer? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi