Elephants Less Likely than Humans to Develop Cancer

November 29, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. resistance / rɪˈzɪs təns / (n.) – the act of preventing something
Example: Most patients develop resistance to the disease after taking the drugs regularly.

2. puzzle / ˈpʌz əl / (v.) – to confuse or make something not understandable
Example: The animal’s human-like behavior puzzled the scientists.

3. enormous / ɪˈnɔr məs / (adj.) – very large in size
Example: The enormous replica of a dinosaur in the museum amazed the children.

4. alteration / ˌɔl təˈreɪ ʃən / (n.) – change or difference
Example: The doctor recommended some alterations in the patients’ medicine and diet.

5. widespread / ˈwaɪdˈsprɛd / (adj.) – common among a group or an area
Example: This disease is widespread among travelers coming from a certain country.


Read the text below.
Experts have finally found the secret behind elephants’ surprising resistance to cancer.

Biologists have long been puzzled by the rare cancer cases among elephants despite their large size. Some people believe that having more cells increases the chance of developing cancer, so larger animals such as elephants should have higher rates of developing cancer.

According to researcher Dr. Joshua Schiffman, cancer among elephants should be widespread and they should have been long extinct because of their high risk for the disease.

However, in a study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah, elephants were found to be less prone to the deadly disease because of a gene that stops genome mutation, or permanent alterations in an organism’s DNA structure.

One of the study's findings indicated that a gene called TP53 helps in fighting cancer in these enormous mammals. This gene produces a protein that stops tumors from building up.

Elephants have more TP53 genes than humans. This explains why elephants have lower chances of developing cancer, as compared to humans.

Dr. Schiffman also said that nature has already found its own way to prevent cancer. He believes that humans can learn greatly from different animals’ cancer-fighting mechanisms. Aside from elephants, an animal that rarely develops cancer is the naked mole rat.

On the contrary, Professor Mel Greaves from the Institute of Cancer Research in London thinks it is better to focus on the factors that contribute to the high risk of cancer in humans.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How can this study help humans prevent cancer?
·         If you were a scientist, which would you study: cancer-causing habits or cures for cancer?

Discussion B

·         What other things can humans learn from studying animals?
·         How can humans benefit from animals or other organisms without causing them harm?

November 29, 2015