Theranostics 2023; 13(5):1607-1631. doi:10.7150/thno.82690 This issue Cite
Cancer Research Institute, Department of Pathology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen Third People's Hospital, National Clinical Research Center for Infectious Diseases, Shenzhen, China.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a particular entity of head neck cancer that is generally regarded as a genetic disease with diverse intertumor and intratumor heterogeneity. This perspective review mainly outlines the up-to-date knowledge of cancer ecology and NPC progression, and presents a number of conceptual stepping-stones. At the beginning, I explicitly advocate that the nature of NPC (cancer) is not a genetic disease but an ecological disease: a multidimensional spatiotemporal “unity of ecology and evolution” pathological ecosystem. The hallmarks of cancer is proposed to act as ecological factors of population fitness. Subsequently, NPC cells are described as invasive species and its metastasis as a multidirectional ecological dispersal. The foundational ecological principles include intraspecific relationship (e.g. communication) and interspecific relationship (e.g. competition, predation, parasitism and mutualism) are interpreted to understand NPC progression. “Mulberry-fish-ponds” model can well illustrate the dynamic reciprocity of cancer ecosystem. Tumor-host interface is the ecological transition zone of cancer, and tumor buddings should be recognized as ecological islands separated from the mainland. It should be noted that tumor-host interface has a significantly molecular and functional edge effect because of its curvature and irregularity. Selection driving factors and ecological therapy including hyperthermia for NPC patients, and future perspectives in such field as “ecological pathology”, “multidimensional tumoriecology” are also discussed. I advance that “nothing in cancer evolution or ecology makes sense except in the light of the other”. The cancer ecology tree is constructed to comprehensively point out the future research direction. Taken together, the establishment of NPC ecology theory and cancer ecology tree might provide a novel conceptual framework and paradigm for our understanding of cancer complex causal process and potential preventive and therapeutic applications for patients.
Keywords: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma ecology, Unity of ecology and evolution, Pathological ecosystem, Tumor microenvironment, Tumor-host interface, Tumor budding, Ecological therapy, Ecological pathology, Ecological radiology, Synthetic cancer ecology, Multidimensional tumoriecology, Cancer ecology tree