Complex multicellular organisms require quantitative and qualitative assessments on each of their constitutive cell types to ensure coordinated and cooperative behavior towards overall functional proficiency. Cell competition represents one of the operating arms of such quality control mechanisms and relies on fitness comparison among individual cells. However, what is exactly included in the fitness equation for each cell type is still uncertain. Evidence will be discussed to suggest that the ability of the cell to integrate and collaborate within the organismal community represents an integral part of the best fitness phenotype. Thus, under normal conditions, cell competition will select against the emergence of altered cells with disruptive behavior towards tissue integrity and/or tissue pattern formation. On the other hand, the winner phenotype prevailing as a result of cell competition does not entail, by itself, any degree of growth autonomy. While cell competition per se should not be considered as a biological driving force towards the emergence of the neoplastic phenotype, it is possible that the molecular machinery involved in the winner/loser interaction could be hijacked by evolving cancer cell populations.
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