Bacterial survival strategies suggest rethinking cancer cooperativity

Trends Microbiol. 2012 Sep;20(9):403-10. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2012.06.001. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


Despite decades of a much improved understanding of cancer biology, we are still baffled by questions regarding the deadliest traits of malignancy: metastatic colonization, dormancy and relapse, and the rapid evolution of multiple drug and immune resistance. New ideas are needed to resolve these critical issues. Relying on finding and demonstrating parallels between collective behavior capabilities of cancer cells and that of bacteria, we suggest communal behaviors of bacteria as a valuable model system for new perspectives and research directions. Understanding the ways in which bacteria thrive in competitive habitats and their cooperative strategies for surviving extreme stress can shed light on cooperativity in tumorigenesis and portray tumors as societies of smart communicating cells. This may translate into progress in fathoming cancer pathogenesis. We outline new experiments to test the cancer cooperativity hypothesis and reason that cancer may be outsmarted through its own 'social intelligence'.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology