Cancer Is One Worry Elephants Can Feel Free to Forget
The gentle giants’ cells contain a tumor-fighting self-destruct button.
Elephants are one of nature’s biggest improbabilities—literally. Their colossal bodies somehow manage to defy the odds: Despite the fact that their cells outnumber humans’ by a factor of about 100, elephant cancer mortality is somehow only a third of ours.
This baffling inconsistency has plagued scientists for decades. It even has a name: Peto’s paradox, a nod to the epidemiologist who first noted the phenomenon in the 1970s, studying humans and mice. But new research published today in Cell Reports shows that, to keep cancer at bay, elephants have a devious trick up their trunks—a molecular self-destruct button, reanimated from beyond the grave.