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Curr Pathobiol Rep. 2018;6(4):201-207. doi: 10.1007/s40139-018-0188-4. Epub 2018 Nov 10.

Life History Trade-Offs in Tumors.

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1Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, HSSB 2045, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3210 USA.
2Complex Systems and Networks Research Group, School of Mathematical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS UK.
3Group of Theoretical Biology, The State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol, School of Life Science, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, 510060 China.
4Department of Psychology, Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, Biodesign Center for Biocomputation, Security and Society, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ USA.



In this paper, we provide an overview of a life history theory and how it applies to cancer evolution.

Recent Findings:

We review the literature on trade-offs in tumors, focusing on the trade-offs among cellular proliferation, survival, and motility. Trade-offs are critical natural constraints for almost all evolutionary processes. Many ecological studies show that trade-offs among these cellular functions maintain a genetic diversity. In addition, these trade-offs are not fixed, but rather can shift depending on the ecological circumstances in the microenvironment. This can lead to selection for the cellular capacity to respond to these differing microenvironments in ways that promote the fitness of the cancer cell. We relate these life history trade-offs to the recently developed Evo-Eco indexes and discuss how life history theory can help refine our measures of tumor evolution and ecology.


Life history theory provides a framework for understanding how the spatial and temporal variability in the tumor microenvironment-in particular resources and threats-affect trade-offs among cell survival, cell proliferation, and cell migration. We discuss how these trade-offs can potentially be leveraged in cancer therapy to increase the effectiveness of treatment.


Cancer evolution; Ecology; Evolutionary theory; Life history trade-offs; Neoplastic progression

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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