Uncontrolled cell proliferation is one of the key features leading to cancer. Seminal works in chronobiology have revealed that disruption of the circadian timing system in mice, either by surgical, genetic, or environmental manipulation, increased tumor development. In humans, shift work is a risk factor for cancer. Based on these observations, the link between the circadian clock and cell cycle has become intuitive. But despite identification of molecular connections between the two processes, the influence of the clock on the dynamics of the cell cycle has never been formally observed. Recently, two studies combining single live cell imaging with computational methods have shed light on robust coupling between clock and cell cycle oscillators. We recapitulate here these novel findings and integrate them with earlier results in both healthy and cancerous cells. Moreover, we propose that the cell cycle may be synchronized or slowed down through coupling with the circadian clock, which results in reduced tumor growth. More than ever, systems biology has become instrumental to understand the dynamic interaction between the circadian clock and cell cycle, which is critical in cellular coordination and for diseases such as cancer.
Keywords: cancer; cell cycle; circadian desynchrony; coupling; mathematical modeling.