(discovered via http://www.kurzweilai.net/news/)
From http://www.newscientist.com/Â :
“An analysis of how cells in a tumour cooperate has provided a unique insight into the evolution of cancer, and may lead to new treatments.
It makes use of “game theory” â€“ the mix of mathematics and economics theory that has been invaluable in understanding how cooperation can evolve in animal societies, even when individuals are selfish.
Robert Axelrod, a political scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, US, a leader in applying game theory to evolutionary biology, has now turned his attention to cancer.
Since every cancer cell within a tumour is different, with different mutations and needs, each of these cells can be thought of as a â€œplayerâ€? in a game theory sense, Axelrod says.”
“â€œItâ€™s well established that tumour cells grow by diffusing growth factors into the neighbouring tissue,â€? says Axelrod. Some cells lack the â€œfull deckâ€? of mutations necessary to produce all the growth factors, overcome host defences and become independently malignant.
But cells can aid each other by complementing the missing growth signals. A cell that promotes blood vessel growth to the tumour will also benefit other pre-cancerous cells.
â€œItâ€™s Adam Smithâ€™s old idea that if people cooperate itâ€™s easier to get the job done,â€? Axelrod says, referring to the 18th-century philosopher. â€œCooperation is thought of as a good thing, and cancer bad. It may be the reason why no one has thought of putting the two together.â€?”