If a Virus is meant to reproduce and spread to other organisms. What is the purpose of a cancer cell?



Is there a purpose to a cancer cell?

In: Biology

Well there really isnt a purpose cancer is technically a mess up in your body. When your cells use asexual reproduction to create another cell sometimes it messes up. Usually this happens thousands of times a day but your body usually stops most of the mutations but if it misses it can be a deadly mutation

A cancer cell is defective cell that will multiply as much as it can. That’s all. There’s no goal.

Cancer is just cells that have mutated to forget when to stop reproducing, and just continue to reproduce until they starve themselves to death.

As far as I know, not a medical professional at all though.

Cancer cells are just normal cells gone rogue. They switched on their replicating button, and forgot how to switch it off. So they just continue to grow and spread throughout your system.

They don’t have a purpose. They just do, because they don’t know how to stop doing.

This is probably not all cancer cells, and would probably only be applicable to malignant cancer cells.

Cancer isnt an illness in the same way as a virus, cancer is a mutation of cells inside your body. In other words cancer is not a organism trying to spread, cancer is a part of you.

Aside from all the other responses here, it’s important that people eliminate the misconception that things in nature exist because of some “purpose”.

Things in nature simply exist. And if it’s a living thing it typically continues to exist if it possesses survival instincts and tries to do what it can to reproduce and not die.

When we think of things like “spiders exist to eat mosquitoes” that’s a VERY ethnocentric view of the world, as if spiders were put there for our personal benefit eliminating a pest we find annoying or dangerous (in that they carry disease).

But that’s simply not the case. Things in nature don’t exist for any reason other than they’ve been able to continue to live throughout history.

virus is a lifeform, its “purpose” is to continue living and replicate.

Cancer is a malfunctioning cell, it has not purpose at all.

And “purpose” here really means “acting as it is has a purpose”, while in reality virus just follows a bunch of pre-programmed rules. These rules do ensure survival of the virus species, but that is because all viruses with different rules have become extinct long time ago, not b/c virus “chooses” to do things to achieve a “purpose”.

In addition to the already posted replies, you might be wondering why, if cancer is just our own cells being jerks, why it exists if it seems to harm us and doesn’t provide any benefit.

First, you have to consider the circumstances under which we evolved. People often didn’t live long enough for cancer to a reason for death. Now that it’s much more common to live longer, it’s much more common for cancer to be a cause of death. (Same with teeth. I’ll never forget overhearing my dentist coming out of an elderly patient’s room saying to his assistant, “Fuck. Teeth just weren’t made to last 80 years.”) So, if cancer doesn’t have much effect on our reproductive success it won’t be selected against very strongly. Pretend there’s a “kidney cancer at age 70 gene” and a “brain cancer at age 5 gene”. The kidney cancer gene can easily be passed down to offspring while the brain cancer gene won’t be.

What about cancers that DO affect young people? Well, whatever circumstances (genes, hormones, etc.) allow for cancer most likely have an overall beneficial effect. You’ve probably heard of the famous example of sickle cell anemia. It’s a heritable disease common among people whose ancestors lived in areas where malaria was common. The same genes which cause sickle cell anemia also provide some defense against malaria. Since it is (or was), on balance, a net positive for that population of humans, it survived.

Cancer cells don’t have a ‘purpose’ in the same sense that viruses do. Technically, a virus isn’t ‘meant’ or ‘want’ to do anything–but viruses are more successful the more contagious they are. A virus that isn’t very contagious and kills people very quickly won’t spread as much and won’t be as common. Where as a virus that is contagious and doesn’t kill the host, or infects them for a long period of time, will have more opportunities to spread and persist in the environment. Viruses that aren’t very contagious or viruses that kill people quickly don’t have as many opportunities to spread and are not as common though epidemics do sometimes occur.

Cancer cells don’t experience these same kinds of selection factors. A cancer cell is one that has accumulated a series of mutations that lets it grow uncontrolled. Normally, your cells are very tightly regulated. However, if you live long enough they will accumulate enough genetic damage from carcinogens (cigarette smoke, radiation, etc) or from errors during cell replication. Eventually, these errors will allow cells will acquire the ability to grow out of control and also evade your body’s defenses which prevent that from happening. Since cancers A) are based on a series of chance events and B) often occur in older age (i.e. after you’ve produced children), evolution and natural selection often fail to weed people out with tendency towards cancer.

Viruses don’t have a purpose. Cancer cells don’t have a purpose. Things don’t exist because they have purposes. The exist simply because they came into existence and have been able to continue to exist.