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  1. Informing materials: drugs as tools for exploring cancer mechanisms and pathways.Etienne Vignola-Gagné, Peter Keating & Alberto Cambrosio - 2017 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (2):10.
    This paper builds on previous work that investigated anticancer drugs as ‘informed materials’, i.e., substances that undergo an informational enrichment that situates them in a dense relational web of qualifications and measurements generated by clinical experiments and clinical trials. The paper analyzes the recent transformation of anticancer drugs from ‘informed’ to ‘informing material’. Briefly put: in the post-genomic era, anti-cancer drugs have become instruments for the production of new biological, pathological, and therapeutic insights into the underlying etiology and evolution of (...)
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  • The Evolution of Failure: Explaining Cancer as an Evolutionary Process.Christopher Lean & Anya Plutynski - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (1):39-57.
    One of the major developments in cancer research in recent years has been the construction of models that treat cancer as a cellular population subject to natural selection. We expand on this idea, drawing upon multilevel selection theory. Cancer is best understood in our view from a multilevel perspective, as both a by-product of selection at other levels of organization, and as subject to selection at several levels of organization. Cancer is a by-product in two senses. First, cancer cells co-opt (...)
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  • Against Organizational Functions.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1093-1103.
    Over the last 20 years, several philosophers have developed a new approach to biological functions, the organizational approach. This is not a single theory but a family of theories based on the idea that a trait token can acquire a function by virtue of the way it contributes to a complex, organized system and thereby to its own continued persistence as a token. I argue that the organizational approach faces a serious liberality objection. I examine three different ways organizational theorists (...)
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  • Evolutionary Perspectives on Molecular Medicine: Cancer From an Evolutionary Perspective.A. Plutynski - forthcoming - In G. Boniolo & M. J. Nathan (eds.), Philosophy of Molecular Medicine: Foundational Issues in Research and Practice. Routledge.
    There is an active research program currently underway, which treats cancer progression as an evolutionary process. This contribution investigates the ways that cancer progression is like and unlike evolution in other contexts. The aim is to take a multi-level perspective on cancer, investigating the levels at which selection may be acting, the unit or target of selection, the relative roles of selection and drift, and the idea that cancer progression may be a by-product of selection at other levels of organization.
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  • Metastasis as Supra-Cellular Selection? A Reply to Lean and Plutynski.Germain Pierre-Luc & Lucie Laplane - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (2):281-287.
    In response to Germain argument that evolution by natural selection has a limited explanatory power in cancer, Lean and Plutynski have recently argued that many adaptations in cancer only make sense at the tumor level, and that cancer progression mirrors the major evolutionary transitions. While we agree that selection could potentially act at various levels of organization in cancers, we argue that tumor-level selection is unlikely to actually play a relevant role in our understanding of the somatic evolution of human (...)
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  • Cancer Stem Cells Modulate Patterns and Processes of Evolution in Cancers.Lucie Laplane - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):18.
    The clonal evolution model and the cancer stem cell model are two independent models of cancers, yet recent data shows intersections between the two models. This article explores the impacts of the CSC model on the CE model. I show that CSC restriction, which depends on CSC frequency in cancer cell populations and on the probability of dedifferentiation of cancer non-stem cells into CSCs, can favor or impede some patterns of evolution and some processes of evolution. Taking CSC restriction into (...)
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  • What Mechanisms Can’T Do: Explanatory Frameworks and the Function of the P53 Gene in Molecular Oncology.Alessandro Blasimme, Paolo Maugeri & Pierre-Luc Germain - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):374-384.
    What has been called the new mechanistic philosophy conceives of mechanisms as the main providers of biological explanation. We draw on the characterization of the p53 gene in molecular oncology, to show that explaining a biological phenomenon implies instead a dynamic interaction between the mechanistic level—rendered at the appropriate degree of ontological resolution—and far more general explanatory tools that perform a fundamental epistemic role in the provision of biological explanations. We call such tools “explanatory frameworks”. They are called frameworks to (...)
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  • Design Sans Adaptation.Sara Green, Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (1):15-29.
    Design thinking in general, and optimality modeling in particular, have traditionally been associated with adaptationism—a research agenda that gives pride of place to natural selection in shaping biological characters. Our goal is to evaluate the role of design thinking in non-evolutionary analyses. Specifically, we focus on research into abstract design principles that underpin the functional organization of extant organisms. Drawing on case studies from engineering-inspired approaches in biology we show how optimality analysis, and other design-related methods, play a specific methodological (...)
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