Evolutionary Game Dynamics and Cancer

Jorge M. Pacheco, Simon A. Levin, David Dingli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cancer is a maladaptive evolutionary process of multicellular organisms combined with cell mutations. Cancer cells produce a large variety of growth and survival factors (resources) that are shared akin to a commons. Resource production is costly, impacting individual cell fitness. Populations that share resources risk being exploited by cheaters that utilize the resource without producing it. Cheaters, being advantageous with respect to normal cells, can lead to the ecological collapse of the tumor population – a tragedy of the commons (TOC). We discuss how this concept can guide the design of cheater tumor clones that induce the collapse of the whole tumor and propose criteria for selection of specific ‘commons’ where this methodology may work optimally, which should especially be the case in hematologic malignancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTrends in Cancer
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • cheater
  • cooperation
  • ecology
  • evolution
  • game theory
  • the commons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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