In April 2003 British science journalist Geoff Watts wrote in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) an article entitled Life's lethal quality control in which he recounted James Graham's long struggle -- he started in 1978 -- to develop his idea, to see it published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Theoretical Biology in 1983 and 1984 (read those textshere), to see his bookCancer Selection:the new theory of evolutionreviewed in Nature in 1992 and to receive further recognition in Nature Reviews, Cancer in 2003. (THES requires registration but Watts's article is also available atButterflies and Wheels.)
Mentioned by Watts are the following published comments on Graham’s idea:
"Science and the underdog" a review by John W. Galloway of Graham's book Cancer Selection: the new theory of evolution in Nature vol 356, p 206, 19 March 1992. (Limited accesslink.)
"Cancer selection" by Armand M. Leroi, Vassiliki Koufopanou and Austin Burt in Nature Reviews, Cancer vol 3, p 226-231, March 2003. A PDF copy of their paper is available.
Graham's book has been prominently cited by Crespi and Summers inBiological Reviewsand Trends in Ecology and Evolutionand by Saul and Schwartz inLethaia. Although Graham's idea "Cancer Selection" is prominently featured in both the title and the body of O'Connell and McInerney's 2005 paper in Gene, those authors do not acknowledge the source either of the idea of the term; Graham is not cited.
Cancer is not confined to the elderly in a population, it also effects organisms of reproductive age. The presence of neoplasias right across the animal kingdom from molluscs and arthropods to reptiles and mammals, places this as a very ancient disease. Therefore, animals must have developed ways to fight/prevent cancer—at least until after reproductive age. For longer-lived, larger animals and those evolving new morphologies, selection to delay or prevent deaths due to cancer would have been particularly significant. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that a selective advantage would exist for those in the population h anticancer adaptations, e.g., reduction of somatic mutation rate (Graham 1992). A pdf of her complete paper is available here. NEW! On November 23, 2011 James Graham delivered an informal talk to a group of researchers at University of California, San Francisco's Center for Evolution and Cancer. A recording of his remarks is available at this link
NEW!Citations of James Graham's book and his JTB Letters, as compiled by Google Scholar, can be found here
NEW! An ebook version of Cancer Selection is now available via Google Books for a nominal charge of $1.00. (Check the Google Books link for comparable prices in other currencies).
NEW! James Graham now has a blog devoted to Cancer Selection.
As for the failure – so far! – of evolutionary biologists to accord James Graham’s proposed radical revision of evolutionary theory wide acceptance he offers the following comment: "To those biologists who deny that cancer selection had any effect on animal evolution, or who think I overstate its historical role asa de facto quality control mechanism, I extend my thanks that they elected to become biologists ... and have nothing to do with the manufacture of airplanes."
Note: To read significant excerpts from Cancer Selection visit Google Books.