Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cancer Gangs and Supressor Tradeoffs

Earlier this week research in my backyard have proposed game theory applied to cancer cells.

This kind of cooperation reminds me of slime molds and their ability to aggregate from independent Slimy Slime Molds. These guys are generally the lone ranger types until the environment changes and it becomes advantageous to have a little slimy sex, which involves maturing into fruiting bodies and releasing spores. In this scenario, not all the cells pass their genes on to the spores, so someone's getting screwed despite all the teamwork. Typical.

In the tumors, one of the major steps precancerous cells need to overcome is recruiting a rich blood source, through signaling molecules like VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) so perhaps you're a precancerous cell but just can't get that rich blood capital. But your wingman has got you covered! He's paid your tab! I can just see the tumor being represented by some sort of wolfpack/Hell's Angels/Charlie's Angels type treatment.

On the other side of the tumor wars, there's this neat nugget: Fight Cancer or Get Old. Apparently the p16 gene plays a dual role where it plays part of the tumor suppression cascade and also combats wear and tear in the body that results due to ageing. As one gets older, perhaps we stock up on p16 the way a retiree reorganizes his finances into more useful and predictable investments. So it's quite the biological Catch-22 at the moment. No p16 and you might get cancer. Have p16 and your tissues won't rejuvenate. Still, this work seems to kick the door open on a whole new knot we get to try and tease apart.

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