Survival of the fittest, as a concept, has mostly been applied to members of the animal species. However, traits of evolution may also be found elsewhere, in a cancer cell, for example.

Those who research cancer have learned to understand tumours as diverse, spirited populations unto themselves. As with members of animal populations, cells within cancer cells compete with one another. Some succeeding, with others failing.

Research on Metastasis

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have engineered a mathematical model to learn about the different properties at play as cancerous tumours grow, multiply and spread. Erol Akçay (assistant professor of Biology, School of Arts and Sciences) and Jimmy Qian (rising senior, Molecular Life Sciences) have stepped forward with action for their model. Upon doing so, they discovered that changes in cancer cells are what cause metastasis; the spreading of cancer growth away from its primary site. In addition, they also found that these changes occur early as opposed to later on in a cancer cells life. In comment with the journal PLOS ONE, both researchers strongly affirm their beliefs that embedding the theories of evolution and ecology into cancer biology may give promise to a more effective scope of treatment plans, cancer awareness and an improvement in metastatic cancer survival rate.

Having an understanding of how cancer evolves, may allow scientists to accurately predict lineage dominance in tumours; possibly allowing treatment of it as soon as possible, which would minimise drug resistance. Also, if scientists are able to predict the process of metastasis, then those mechanisms can be tackled before the process begins. Both, are possible future ways of cancer prevention. Cancer cells don’t remain dormant or close to normal cells; they change their environment to make it more applicable to their own. This process involves the alteration of blood-vessel formation and cells in close proximity. Going forward, metastasis takes place when malignant cells release themselves through the bloodstream, travelling to distant locations across the body, where finally, they work to create an environment for cancer to grow.

The Research in Practice

The researchers designed a model tumour, built from four different types of cancer cell: producers which build a tumours microenvironment, producers which build distant pre-metastatic sites, producers which do both of these roles and cheaters, offering no value to the construction process and which sacrifice fewer resources. After the model was built, researchers enabled competition between cancer cell subsets and ran simulations. In summary, the researchers found that in a tumours early phase, producers of pre-metastatic niches were more likely to succeed because of such small competition. They also observed, that as the tumour grew and with that, more mutations became prevalent, the amount of competition increased. While mutants are likely to be found in large tumour cells, it’s not common to find them there; leading to understanding cancer in a way that metastasis is most likely to occur when a tumour is a smaller size, with more mutations present. While both researchers are proud of their discovery, they acknowledge that “we’re not there yet”, with hope their idea may one day make its way into treatment design for cancer.

Verita Life are a global leader of Integrative Cancer Treatments. We are excited to learn of the discovery by researchers into using mathematical models to understand metastasis. When their model was applied, it was able to identify that tumours are more likely to metastasise across the body in an early phase, as opposed to a later phase. This is because tumours in their early phase have more mutations which cancer production cells compete with and take from, cells which are, not present when the tumour reaches its larger size. The research gives hope of a future treatment design for cancer, one which may intercept metastasis growth early by an understanding of its process mechanisms and another way which may detect cancer lineages that lead to this onset. Verita Life is present at three locations: Bangkok, Germany and Mexico. Contact us today to see how we can design a unique, safe and effective cancer treatment approach for you or a loved one.