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Turning ecology and evolution against cancer.

Nature reviews. Cancer

Remission Induction, metabolism, Neoplasms, Models, Theoretical, Humans, Genetic Variation, Evolution, Molecular, Ecosystem, Ecology, Disease Progression, Cell Proliferation, Cell Lineage, Animals

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      Abstract

      The fight against cancer has drawn researchers from a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from molecular biology to physics, but the perspective of an ecological theorist has been mostly overlooked. By thinking about the cells that make up a tumour as an endangered species, cancer vulnerabilities become more apparent. Studies in conservation biology and microbial experiments indicate that extinction is a complex phenomenon, which is often driven by the interaction of ecological and evolutionary processes. Recent advances in cancer research have shown that tumours, like species striving for survival, harbour intricate population dynamics, which suggests the possibility to exploit the ecology of tumours for treatment.

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      Most cited references 126

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      Hallmarks of Cancer: The Next Generation

      The hallmarks of cancer comprise six biological capabilities acquired during the multistep development of human tumors. The hallmarks constitute an organizing principle for rationalizing the complexities of neoplastic disease. They include sustaining proliferative signaling, evading growth suppressors, resisting cell death, enabling replicative immortality, inducing angiogenesis, and activating invasion and metastasis. Underlying these hallmarks are genome instability, which generates the genetic diversity that expedites their acquisition, and inflammation, which fosters multiple hallmark functions. Conceptual progress in the last decade has added two emerging hallmarks of potential generality to this list-reprogramming of energy metabolism and evading immune destruction. In addition to cancer cells, tumors exhibit another dimension of complexity: they contain a repertoire of recruited, ostensibly normal cells that contribute to the acquisition of hallmark traits by creating the "tumor microenvironment." Recognition of the widespread applicability of these concepts will increasingly affect the development of new means to treat human cancer. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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        Hypoxia--a key regulatory factor in tumour growth.

         Claire Harris (2001)
        Cells undergo a variety of biological responses when placed in hypoxic conditions, including activation of signalling pathways that regulate proliferation, angiogenesis and death. Cancer cells have adapted these pathways, allowing tumours to survive and even grow under hypoxic conditions, and tumour hypoxia is associated with poor prognosis and resistance to radiation therapy. Many elements of the hypoxia-response pathway are therefore good candidates for therapeutic targeting.
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          Early-warning signals for critical transitions.

          Complex dynamical systems, ranging from ecosystems to financial markets and the climate, can have tipping points at which a sudden shift to a contrasting dynamical regime may occur. Although predicting such critical points before they are reached is extremely difficult, work in different scientific fields is now suggesting the existence of generic early-warning signals that may indicate for a wide class of systems if a critical threshold is approaching.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1038/nrc3712
            24739582

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