Cell Number Limited by Cancer

I was thinking about how cancer could be included into the game in a fun way. Cancer is important for pretty much all multicellular life, particularly for animals. It would therefore be nice to find a place for it in the game.

Some Cancer Science:
Cancer is expected to become more of a problem when an organism has a larger body size. This is because larger organisms consists of more cells, increasing the chance that any of these cells becomes a cancer cell. Larger breeds of dogs for example are more likely to get cancer than smaller breeds of dogs. However, species can vary in their cancer resistance. A whale for example is actually less likely to get cancer than a human is, because whales have better cancer resistance.

Game Play:
I think cancer resistence could be used to restrict the number of cells an organism can have. If you want to have more cells, you need to get better cancer resistence. This could be a hard limit on how many cells are allowed.
Alternatively, one could let the player add more cells, but introduce a cost to cancer. In nature cancer might simply be expected to kill the organism. However, it isn’t much fun to randomly die whenever one of your cells becomes a cancer. Maybe a cancer cell could instead start a countdown. If an organism gets cancer very early in life, the player could simply restart, but if cancer happens late in life, the player still has time to finish reproduction.

welcome to the forum!
first it great idea to add some mechanic to the game , but cancer is not rare event? even if high cancer resist, most cell become cancer after a lot of unfixed DNA parts (some more then 20) and even soo, the cell сorrects the sections almost immediately, so the chance of missing is quite small (less than 1%).

And to the big animals, here something we call Peto-paradox - big animels for some reason immune to cancer and frankly, we do not know exactly why.

Short animation about Peto-paradox:

In game perspective: if I remember right, here are planning something that gives passive abilities (correct me if I am wrong), but because it is a rare event, it is less likely that it was as immunity, these are more as a rare event of the “Disease” type. That’s my opinion at least.
As for the effects that cancer has on the player, I would not have pronounced this better than you wrote.

From what I understand, cancer is rare because multicellular life has developed so many forms of resistance to it. Early mulicellular life would not have a kill switch, or an immune system, or tumor surpressor genes. Additionally, cells were right next to each other, meaning that every cell (including tumor cells) would get resources.

For example, an early mulicellular organism might have had a single gene that make it transfer resources to its neighbors. A single deletion or insertion into that gene would be enough to turn it into a tumor cell.
Things could however get even worse if multiple genes are needed to allow cooperation. Let’s assume that in a normally functioning organism cells give out a signal when they need resources. This signal is received by a protein in the membrane of other cells and then those cells respond by providing resources. Cells could now mutiate in many different ways: They could lose their receptor protein. They could lose their ability to transfer resources to other cells. They could mutate to send out the signal that they need resources (even when they don’t need them). Each of these mutations would make them a “selfish” cell. Even if it didn’t continue multiplying (and hence wouldn’t be a real tumor), it could already do a lot of damage to a small organism, particularly if the organism had very specialized cells.

From what I understand, the ability to surpress cancer (and other selfish cells) was an important driver in the evolution of mulicellularity.


My gosh smart people. I agree. I’m sure cancer will be rare in large critters just because it has to be. I love the idea of complex tumor cells and whatnot. Thank you for posting smart things!

Lol, thanks. I’m currently doing my PhD in evolutionary biology. Collegues of mine are are using mathematical models to understand cancer defenses in birds. Birds actually have much better cancer defenses than their size would suggest. One reason for that is probably that they have very large ancestors. Dinosaurs would have needed much better cancer defenses due to their large body size. When birds then became smaller, their cancer defenses remained high, and now birds might have stronger cancer defenses than other animals their size. (I could add the obligatory “this is probably not the full story”, but I think we all know that in biology things tend to be more complicated than one expects)

I think cancer should have a place in the multicellular stage of thrive and I was quite surprised that hardly anyone had even mentioned it. The simplest thing I could think of is to use cancer resistance as a limit for how many cells an organism can have. Of course it would also be possible to make it more complex, but this comes with a risk of turning the multicellular phase into a “cancer simulation game”, which might not be in everyone’s interest (although it could maybe be done in an interesting way).