Testing cancer’s limits with game theory
Game theory is popular among poker players, economists and politicians.
That’s understandable. The theory examines how we make strategic decisions when other people are involved.
Now, oncology researchers are employing game theory to look for new ways to combat tumors. Dr. Kenneth Pienta, Ardeshir Kianercy and Robert Veltri of Johns Hopkins University drew on game theory to study the evolving relationship between oxygen-rich and oxygen-needy tumor cells. That relationship can be symbiotic—or not. The researchers used game theory to look for moments to exploit their changing relationship to fight cancer.
Pharmaceutical companies could potentially disrupt that symbiotic cellular development and stunt tumor growth, said Kianercy, a postdoctoral fellow at the university.
Indeed, the researchers identified a few potential junctures when that relationship may leave the tumor more vulnerable to attack, they recently reported in the journal Interface Focus.
The work underscores the importance of studying the environment in which tumor cells evolve, Kianercy said. Results that focus exclusively on the tumor could be disappointing, he said, just as the farmer may find his problems don’t end after he shoots the fox in the henhouse. Without the fox, rabbits may return to decimate the farmer’s garden. The environment matters, he said.