Optimal Foraging Theory

Why do cells metastasize?

Just because something can move doesn’t mean it does move.

Movement is high-risk: it uses valuable resources and always comes with a trade-off (such as reproduction or cell proliferation)

Optimal foraging theory (OFT) is an eco-ecological paradigm that predicts if, when, and why an individual moves.

We use OFT to understand the microenvironmental pressures (resources and predation risk) that give rise to motile foraging cells to predict metastatic phenotype.

Individuals – people, animals, or cells – optimize their behavior (stay or go) to maximize benefit and limit risk. In a low-resource / high-risk setting, movement is adaptive: it is better to risk the unknown than to stay and die.

We use OFT to study the tumor microenvironment (aka, tumor ecosystem) conditions that result in the emergence of motile foragers – this includes restricting resources and increasing predation risk. We also use OFT to better understand the underlying biology of the motile foragers themselves.