Our knowledge of the biology of solid cancer has greatly progressed during the last few years, and many excellent reviews dealing with the various aspects of this biology have appeared. In the present review, we attempt to bring together these subjects in a general systems biology narrative. It starts from the roles of what we term entropy of signaling and noise in the initial oncogenic events, to the first major transition of tumorigenesis: the independence of the tumor cell and the switch in its physiology, i.e., from subservience to the organism to its own independent Darwinian evolution. The development after independence involves a constant dynamic reprogramming of the cells and the emergence of a sort of collective intelligence leading to invasion and metastasis and seldom to the ultimate acquisition of immortality through inter-individual infection. At each step, the probability of success is minimal to infinitesimal, but the number of cells possibly involved and the time scale account for the relatively high occurrence of tumorigenesis and metastasis in multicellular organisms.
- Systems biology