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.
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