Competitive cell interactions in cancer: a cellular tug of war

Trends Cell Biol. 2013 Apr;23(4):160-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2012.11.002. Epub 2012 Dec 4.


Within tissues, cells sense differences in fitness levels and this can lead to fitter cells eliminating less fit, albeit viable, cells via competitive cell interactions. The involvement of several cancer-related genes in this phenomenon has drawn attention to a potential connection between competitive cell interactions and cancer. Indeed, initial studies found that tumor-promoting genes can turn cells into 'supercompetitors', able to kill normal cells around them. However, more recently it has been observed that cells harboring certain cancer-promoting mutations can be eliminated by surrounding normal cells, suggesting that competitive cell interactions could also have a tumor-suppressive role. These findings suggest a new view whereby tumor and host cells engage in a bidirectional tug of war, the outcome of which may have a profound impact on disease progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Communication*
  • Disease Progression
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / pathology*