An emergence framework of carcinogenesis

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Experimental paradigms provide the framework for the understanding of cancer, and drive research and treatment, but are rarely considered by clinicians. The somatic mutation theory (SMT), in which cancer is considered a genetic disease, has been the predominant traditional model of cancer for over 50 years. More recently, alternative theories have been proposed, such as tissue organization field theory (TOFT), evolutionary models, and inflammatory models. Key concepts within the various models have led to them being difficult to reconcile. Progressively, it has been recognized that biological systems cannot be fully explained by the physicochemical properties of their constituent parts. There is an increasing call for a 'systems' approach. Incorporating the concepts of 'emergence', 'systems', 'thermodynamics', and 'chaos', a single integrated framework for carcinogenesis has been developed, enabling existing theories to become compatible as alternative mechanisms, facilitating the integration of bioinformatics and providing a structure in which translational research can flow from both 'benchtop to bedside' and 'bedside to benchtop'. In this review, a basic understanding of the key concepts of 'emergence', 'systems', 'system levels', 'complexity', 'thermodynamics', 'entropy', 'chaos', and 'fractals' is provided. Non-linear mathematical equations are included where possible to demonstrate compatibility with bioinformatics. Twelve principles that define the 'emergence framework of carcinogenesis' are developed, with principles 1-10 encapsulating the key concepts upon which the framework is built and their application to carcinogenesis. Principle 11 relates the framework to cancer progression. Principle 12 relates to the application of the framework to translational research. The 'emergence framework of carcinogenesis' collates current paradigms, concepts, and evidence around carcinogenesis into a single framework that incorporates previously incompatible viewpoints and ideas. Any researcher, scientist, or clinician involved in research, treatment, or prevention of cancer can employ this framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number198
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2017


  • Carcinogenesis
  • Chaos
  • Emergence
  • Entropy
  • Fractals
  • Systems biology
  • Thermodynamics
  • Translational research

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