In the News (from Rice University): “In the face of mounting evidence that cancer cells communicate, cooperate and even engage in collective decision-making, biophysicists and cancer researchers at Rice University, Tel Aviv University and Johns Hopkins University are suggesting a new strategy for outsmarting cancer through its own social intelligence.
“‘We need to get beyond the notion that cancer is a random collection of cells running amok,” said Herbert Levine, co-director of Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics and co-author of the cover article in this week’s Trends in Microbiology that pulls together dozens of recent discoveries about the social behavior of cancer cells. ‘These cells lead sophisticated social lives.’
“Article co-author Eshel Ben-Jacob, a senior investigator at CTBP, said, ‘Cancer is a sophisticated enemy. There’s growing evidence that cancer cells use advanced communications to work together to enslave normal cells, create metastases, resist drugs and decoy the body’s immune system.’ …
Ben-Jacob said cancer cells have been shown to cooperate to elude chemotherapy drugs, much like bacteria that communicate and act as a team to resist attacks from antibiotics. He said some cancers appear to sense when chemotherapy drugs are present and sound an alarm that causes cells throughout a tumor to switch into a dormant state. Similar signals are later used to sound the “all clear” and reawaken cells inside the tumor.
“‘If we can break the communication code, we may be able to prevent the cells from going dormant or to reawaken them for a well-timed chemotherapeutic attack,” Ben-Jacob said. “This is just one example. Our extensive studies of the social lives of bacteria suggest a number of others, including sending signals that trigger the cancer cells to turn upon themselves and kill one another.’”
My Comment: Cancer is a body in the body. Our body is a community of cells bound to a single idea to mutually support life. But there is the disease of cancer: Some of the cells, due to their increased egoism, become separated from the other cells of the body and begin to see them as enemies, as a foreign body that needs to be attacked and devoured. Cancer is a breakdown in the program of cells whose increased egoism does not feel the body as their own. This is like us who are unconscious of nature as our own home and who wish to destroy it for its passing good. As cancer cells kill the body and then die from lack of habitat, so are we heading towards death as we are killing our planet.