Does Cancer Biology Rely on Parrondo’s Principles?
Toulouse Biotechnology Institute, University of Toulouse, INSA, CNRS, INRAE, 31400 Toulouse, France
Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick, P.O. Box 4400, Fredericton, NB E3B 5A3, Canada
Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Deakin, VIC 3216, Australia
CREEC/CANECEV, MIVEGEC (CREES), Centre de Recherches Ecologiques et Evolutives sur le Cancer, University of Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, 34000 Montpellier, France
Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster, Hüfferstrasse 1, 48149 Münster, Germany
Laboratory of Rare Human Circulating Cells (LCCRH), University Medical Centre of Montpellier, 34093 Montpellier, France
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: José I. López and Ildefonso M. de la Fuente
Received: 9 April 2021
Revised: 29 April 2021
Accepted: 29 April 2021
Published: 3 May 2021
Parrondo’s paradox, whereby losing strategies or deleterious effects can combine to provide a winning outcome, has been increasingly applied by biologists to explain complex adaptations in many living systems. Here, we suggest that considering this paradox in oncology, particularly in relation to the phenotypic diversity of malignant cells, could also be a promising approach to understand several puzzling aspects of cancer biology. For example, the high genetic and epigenetic instability of cancer cells, their metastatic behavior and their capacity to enter dormancy could be explained by Parrondo’s theory. We also discuss the relevance of Parrondo’s paradox in a therapeutical framework using different examples. This work provides a compelling argument that the traditional separation between medicine and other disciplines remains a fundamental limitation that needs to be overcome if complex processes, such as oncogenesis, are to be completely understood.