Cancer begins to be recognized as a highly complex disease, and advanced knowledge of the carcinogenic process claims to be acquired by means of supragenomic strategies. Experimental data evidence that tumor emerges from disruption of tissue architecture, and it is therefore consequential that the tissue level should be considered the proper level of observation for carcinogenic studies. This paradigm shift imposes to move from a reductionistic to a systems biology approach. Indeed, cell phenotypes are emergent modes arising through collective nonlinear interactions among different cellular and microenvironmental components, generally described by a phase space diagram, where stable states (attractors) are embedded into a landscape model. Within this framework cell states and cell transitions are generally conceived as mainly specified by the gene-regulatory network. However, the system's dynamics cannot be reduced to only the integrated functioning of the genome-proteome network, and the cell-stroma interacting system must be taken into consideration in order to give a more reliable picture. As cell form represents the spatial geometric configuration shaped by an integrated set of cellular and environmental cues participating in biological functions control, it is conceivable that fractal-shape parameters could be considered as "omics" descriptors of the cell-stroma system. Within this framework it seems that function follows form, and not the other way around.
A Systems Biology Approach to Cancer: Fractals, Attractors, and Nonlinear Dynamics / Dinicola, Simona; D'Anselmi, Fabrizio; Alessia, Pasqualato; Proietti, Sara; Elisabetta, Lisi; Cucina, Alessandra; Bizzarri, Mariano. - In: OMICS. - ISSN 1536-2310. - 15:3(2011), pp. 93-104. [10.1089/omi.2010.0091]