Based at the Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida, Cancer Ecology is a small research group led by David Basanta. We are mathematical modellers who work with biologists and clinicians, trying to understand the ecology of tumors and the evolutionary dynamics of cancer progression and resistance to treatment.

Stem cells and breast cancer

Robert Weinberg and colleagues have just published an article in Nature (see here and here) where they study the role of a type of stem cells known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in promoting metastasis.

It seems that MSCs that interact with weakly metastatic cells release a paracrine substance (CCL5) that promotes metastasis. The effect works for as long as the tumour cells have access to CCL5 so these cells revert to their normal state once the factor is out of reach.

Interestingly, Weinberg reckons that this mechanism is unlikely to be breast-specific and that it could be used to explain metastasis in many kinds of cancers. This work seems to give strength to the idea that dealing with stem cells is necessary when treating a cancer.

ECCS workshop on evolution and game theory

Karl Sigmund's talk at ECCS