Evolved Resistance to Placental Invasion Secondarily Confers Increased Survival in Melanoma Patients

J Clin Med. 2021 Feb 5;10(4):595. doi: 10.3390/jcm10040595.


Mammals exhibit large differences in rates of cancer malignancy, even though the tumor formation rates may be similar. In placental mammals, rates of malignancy correlate with the extent of placental invasion. Our Evolved Levels of Invasibility (ELI) framework links these two phenomena identifying genes that potentially confer resistance in stromal fibroblasts to limit invasion, from trophoblasts in the endometrium, and from disseminating melanoma in the skin. Herein, using patient data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), we report that these anti-invasive genes may be crucial in melanoma progression in human patients, and that their loss is correlated with increased cancer spread and lowered survival. Our results suggest that, surprisingly, these anti-invasive genes, which have lower expression in humans compared to species with non-invasive placentation, may potentially prevent stromal invasion, while a further reduction in their levels increases the malignancy and lethality of melanoma. Our work links evolution, comparative biology, and cancer progression across tissues, indicating new avenues for using evolutionary medicine to prognosticate and treat human cancers.

Keywords: cancer associated fibroblasts; cancer dissemination; cancer microenvironment; invasibility; melanoma metastasis; placentation; stromal invasion.