Cancer stem cells as ‘units of selection’
Article first published online: 23 OCT 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Special Issue: Evolution and Cancer
Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 102–108, January 2013
How to Cite
Greaves, M. (2013), Cancer stem cells as ‘units of selection’. Evolutionary Applications, 6: 102–108. doi: 10.1111/eva.12017
- Issue published online: 21 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 23 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 29 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Received: 15 JUN 2012
- Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund
- Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research UK
- disease Biology;
- evolutionary Medicine;
- natural selection and contemporary evolution
Cancer development is widely recognized to be a somatic cell evolutionary process with complex dynamics and highly variable time frames. Variant cells and descendent subclones gain competitive advantage via their fitness in relation to micro-environmental selective pressures. In this context, the ‘unit’ of selection is the cell, but not any cell. The so-called ‘cancer stem cells’ have the essential properties required to function as the key units of selection, particularly with respect to their proliferative potential and longevity. These cells drive evolutionary progression of disease and provide reservoirs for relapse or recurrence and drug resistance. They represent the prime, but elusive and moving, targets for therapeutic control.