Recently, it was shown that the majority of genes linked to human diseases, such as cancer genes, evolved in two major evolutionary transitions—the emergence of unicellular organisms and the transition to multicellularity. Therefore, it has been widely accepted that the majority of disease-related genes has already been present in species distantly related to humans. An original way of studying human diseases relies on analyzing genes and proteins that cause a certain disease using model organisms that belong to the evolutionary level at which these genes have emerged. This kind of approach is supported by the simplicity of the genome/proteome, body plan, and physiology of such model organisms. It has been established for quite some time that sponges are an ideal model system for such studies, having a vast variety of genes known to be engaged in sophisticated processes and signalling pathways associated with higher animals. Sponges are considered to be the simplest multicellular animals and have changed little during evolution. Therefore, they provide an insight into the metazoan ancestor genome/proteome features. This review compiles current knowledge of cancer-related genes/proteins in marine sponges.
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