Cancer cells in vitro form networks like the one pictured here, in which cells not only compete for space and resources, but also cooperate by sharing diffusible growth factors. Cells that do not produce growth factors, however, can free-ride on the factors produced by their neighbours, forming clusters of non-cooperative cells (dark areas) that can lead to stable intra-tumor heterogeneity. This research shows how the dynamics of growth factor production in monolayers of cells can be understood using evolutionary game theory.
Credit:University of East Anglia
‘Heterogeneity for IGF-II production maintained by public goods dynamics in neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer‘ doi: 10.1073/pnas.1414653112 is published in the journal PNAS on January 26, 2015. The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).