Ecosystems are interactive systems involving communities of species and their abiotic environment. Tumors are ecosystems in which cancer cells act as invasive species interacting with native host cell species in an established microenvironment within the larger host biosphere. At its heart, to study ecology is to study interconnectedness. In ecologic science, an ecologic network is a representation of the biotic interactions in an ecosystem in which species (nodes) are connected by pairwise interactions (links). Ecologic networks and signaling network models have been used to describe and compare the structures of ecosystems. It has been shown that disruption of ecologic networks through the loss of species or disruption of interactions between them can lead to the destruction of the ecosystem. Often, the destruction of a single node or link is not enough to disrupt the entire ecosystem. The more complex the network and its interactions, the more difficult it is to cause the extinction of a species, especially without leveraging other aspects of the ecosystem. Similarly, successful treatment of cancer with a single agent is rarely enough to cure a patient without strategically modifying the support systems conducive to survival of cancer. Cancer cells and the ecologic systems they reside in can be viewed as a series of nested networks. The most effective new paradigms for treatment will be developed through application of scaled network disruption.
Disrupting the networks of cancer. Camacho DF, Pienta KJ. Clin Cancer Res 2012 May 15;18(10):2801-2808. Epub 2012 Mar 22.