Cell competition and tumor heterogeneity

Taylor M Parker, Vanessa Henriques, Antonio Beltran, Harikrishna Nakshatri, Rajan Gogna
Seminars in Cancer Biology 2019 September 9
Cancers exhibit a remarkable degree of intratumoral heterogeneity (ITH), which results from complex cellular interactions amongst various cell types. This phenomenon provides an opportunity for clonal selection and growth advantages to aggressive cancer cell types, resulting in worse prognosis and challenges to anti-cancer therapy. Cell competition is a conserved mechanism operational in cellular and organ systems, which allows neighboring cells to compare their relative fitness levels and results in the elimination of viable but suboptimal cells. By abuse of this conserved homeostasis mechanism, aggressive cancer cell types gain an advantage over normal cell types by achieving traits like increased proliferation, de-differentiation, and stemness. This review presents recent evidence that cell competition mechanisms actively participate in the regulation of intratumoral cell-cell interactions and thus contribute to ITH, and this process is essential for cancer development and progression.

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