Complexity and stability in growing cancer cell populations
Magazine article, 2015
Evolutionary game theory (EGT) describes dynamics in populations in which individual fitness can change because of the interactions with others, called frequency-dependent selection (1). Interactions are driven by differences in phenotype. EGT has been proposed as a framework for evolutionary dynamics of tumors (2). An underlying assumption is that different cancer cell types within a tumor engage in different heritable behavior; thus, frequency-dependent selection acts. Until now there has been little direct empirical evidence for this.
The study by Archetti et al. (3) demonstrates frequency-dependent growth rates of two phenotypically distinct cancer subclones. One clone produced the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-II, the other did not. In a mix of producers and nonproducers, the growth rates of both clones varied with the frequency of producers. Because a similar effect was shown when varying the concentration of serum, the production of IGF-II could be viewed as a public goods game.