Elephants rarely get cancer. Despite their great size and long lives elephant just don’t really contract cancers that often.
Recent thinking amongst scientists suggests that cancers develop in individuals when a gene known as TP53 is absent or non-functional. Humans have only one copy of this gene; elephants have 20.
This University of Oxford scientist, Dr. Philip Vollrath, believes that the presence of so many copies of this gene in elephant is because their testicles are inside of their bodies and, therefore, very hot. He believes that the gene TP53 is as numerable as it is in elephants because it is charged with keeping the sperm in an elephant’s hot testicles safe and productive.
The theory is that TP53 protects an elephant’s sperm from its habitat’s high temperatures and the fact that these genes also keep the animal protected from cancer is a welcome side effect.
Could this be the key to understanding and eventually eliminating cancer? Only time will tell.