Metastasis and the evolution of dispersal

Authors: Tazzio Tissot, François Massol, Beata Ujvari, Catherine Alix-Panabieres, Nicolas Loeuille and Frédéric Thomas


Brief summary of the paper: Despite significant progress in oncology, metastasis remains the leading cause of mortality of cancer patients. Understanding the foundations of this phenomenon could help contain or even prevent it.

As suggested by many ecologists and cancer biologists, metastasis could be considered through the lens of biological dispersal: the movement of cancer cells from their birth site (the primary tumour) to other habitats where they resume proliferation (metastatic sites).

However, whether this model can consistently be applied to the emergence and dynamics of metastasis remains unclear. Here, we provide a broad review of various aspects of the evolution of dispersal in ecosystems.

We investigate whether similar ecological and evolutionary principles can be applied to metastasis, and how these processes may shape the spatio-temporal dynamics of disseminating cancer cells. We further discuss complementary hypotheses and propose experimental approaches to test the relevance of the evolutionary ecology of dispersal in studying metastasis.