Cancer as an ecomolecular disease and a neoplastic consortium

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Claudia Capdevila, Javier Hernandez-Losa, Leticia de Mattos, Abhishek Ghosh, Julie Lorent, Ola Larsson, Trond Aasen, Lynne Marie Postovit, Ivan Topisirovic

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Current anticancer paradigms largely target driver mutations considered integral for cancer cell survival and tumor progression. Although initially successful, many of these strategies are unable to overcome the tremendous heterogeneity that characterizes advanced tumors, resulting in the emergence of resistant disease. Cancer is a rapidly evolving, multifactorial disease that accumulates numerous genetic and epigenetic alterations. This results in wide phenotypic and molecular heterogeneity within the tumor, the complexity of which is further amplified through specific interactions between cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment. In this context, cancer may be perceived as an “ecomolecular” disease that involves cooperation between several neoplastic clones and their interactions with immune cells, stromal fibroblasts, and other cell types present in the microenvironment. This collaboration is mediated by a variety of secreted factors. Cancer is therefore analogous to complex ecosystems such as microbial consortia. In the present article, we comment on the current paradigms and perspectives guiding the development of cancer diagnostics and therapeutics and the potential application of systems biology to untangle the complexity of neoplasia. In our opinion, conceptualization of neoplasia as an ecomolecular disease is warranted. Advances in knowledge pertinent to the complexity and dynamics of interactions within the cancer ecosystem are likely to improve understanding of tumor etiology, pathogenesis, and progression. This knowledge is anticipated to facilitate the design of new and more effective therapeutic approaches that target the tumor ecosystem in its entirety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-499
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Cancer
  • Consortium
  • Ecomolecular
  • Heterogeneity
  • Paradigms
  • Systems biology


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