Cancer may stem from impaired communication between cells

The development and survival of living beings are linked to the ability of their cells to perceive and respond to their environment through chemical signal systems, known as signalling pathways. Impaired information processing prevents cells from perceiving their environment correctly and enables them to act in an uncontrolled manner, which can lead to the development of cancer.


New mathematical approach allows precise comparison of information content

Taking advantage of a complex mathematical model that they have recently developed and implemented, researchers in the laboratory of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev have for the first time been able to quantify the transmission of information at the level of individual cells. Their mathematical tool is able to integrate the complex shape of the response and derive a single number that reflects the information content transmitted by each cell.


Impaired information transmission at the origin of cancer

With this new tool at their disposal, they investigated the information content transmitted by a specific signaling pathway known to be involved in cancer - the GPCR signaling. Their experiments on several cancer cell lines demonstrated that they do not transmit the same information content as healthy ones. Like someone who has difficulty with a foreign language, cancer cells transmit less information. By no longer understanding the surrounding healthy cells, they are able to ignore the stimuli that try to force them to die and reduce their growth. This alteration of information processing could explain how cancer cells survive and proliferate to the detriment of the entire organism.


Impaired information processing by cancer cells could explain some key cancer hallmarks, such as resistance to cell death and evasion of growth suppressors.


What’s next?

These findings provide experimental validation that cancer is an information disease and bear importance for fundamental cancer biology and anti-cancer drug discovery. Researchers will now try to understand the mechanisms that lead to impaired information processing, with the aim to find new avenues to stop cancer development.

17 Aug 2023