Life History Trade-Offs in Tumors

Amy M. Boddy, Weini Huang, C Athena Aktipis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: In this paper, we provide an overview of a life history theory and how it applies to cancer evolution. Recent Findings: We review the literature on trade-offs in tumors, focusing on the trade-offs among cellular proliferation, survival, and motility. Trade-offs are critical natural constraints for almost all evolutionary processes. Many ecological studies show that trade-offs among these cellular functions maintain a genetic diversity. In addition, these trade-offs are not fixed, but rather can shift depending on the ecological circumstances in the microenvironment. This can lead to selection for the cellular capacity to respond to these differing microenvironments in ways that promote the fitness of the cancer cell. We relate these life history trade-offs to the recently developed Evo-Eco indexes and discuss how life history theory can help refine our measures of tumor evolution and ecology. Summary: Life history theory provides a framework for understanding how the spatial and temporal variability in the tumor microenvironment—in particular resources and threats—affect trade-offs among cell survival, cell proliferation, and cell migration. We discuss how these trade-offs can potentially be leveraged in cancer therapy to increase the effectiveness of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-207
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Pathobiology Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Cancer evolution
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Life history trade-offs
  • Neoplastic progression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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