Authors: Justine Boutry, Sophie Tissot, Beata Ujvari, Jean-Pascal Capp, Mathieu Giraudeau, Aurora M. Nedelcu, Frédéric Thomas
Source: Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Reviews on Cancer (JAN 2022)
Tumors are usually classified into two main categories – benign or malignant, with much more attention being devoted to the second category given that they are usually associated with more severe health issues (i.e., metastatic cancers).
Here, we argue that the mechanistic distinction between benign and malignant tumors has narrowed our understanding of neoplastic processes. This review provides the first comprehensive discussion of benign tumors in the context of their evolution and ecology as well as interactions with their hosts. We compare the genetic and epigenetic profiles, cellular activities, and the involvement of viruses in benign and malignant tumors. We also address the impact of intra-tumoral cell composition and its relationship with the tumoral microenvironment.
Lastly, we explore the differences in the distribution of benign and malignant neoplasia across the tree of life and provide examples on how benign tumors can also affect individual fitness and consequently the evolutionary trajectories of populations and species.
Overall, our goal is to bring attention to the non-cancerous manifestations of tumors, at different scales, and to stimulate research on the evolutionary ecology of host–tumor interactions on a broader scale.
Ultimately, we suggest that a better appreciation of the differences and similarities between benign and malignant tumors is fundamental to our understanding of malignancy both at mechanistic and evolutionary levels.