A new mathematical formula for cancer progression

Nov 09, 2007

Tumor progression can now be mapped less to mathematical standards and more to individual patients according to a new study by researchers at Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities. The study, publishing in PLoS Computational Biology on November 9, 2007, provides a new paradigm in calculating tumor development, showing that it appears to be driven by mutations in many genes.

Our understanding of the progression of cancer has long been based on streamlined models where cancer is driven by mutations in only a few genes. Niko Beerenwinkel et al. show how tumor progression can be driven by hundreds of genes. As many as 20 different mutated genes might be responsible for driving an individual tumor’s development.

Beerenwinkel et al. used a case of colon cancer to derive their results. Cancer progression proceeds stochastically from a single genetically altered cell to billions of invasive cells through a series of clonal expansions. According to their model, cancer progression is driven by mutations in many genes, each of which confers only a small selective advantage. It was found that the time it takes for a benign tumor to transform into a malignant tumor is dominated by the selective advantage per mutation and by the number of cancer genes, whereas tumor size and mutation rate have smaller impacts.

This new model could help explain the large amount of variation between individual tumors that has long puzzled researchers and clinicians. The increasing amount of high-throughput molecular data that is being generated has resulted in new challenges for understanding complex biosystems such as cancer. New mathematical models like this one can provide unique insights that simplify interpretation and at the same time answer important biomedical questions.

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Sequence of rare kidney cancer reveals unique alterations involving telomerase

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Advancing medicine, layer by layer

Jul 02, 2014

Personalized cancer treatments and better bone implants could grow from techniques demonstrated by graduate students Stephen W. Morton and Nisarg J. Shah, who are both working in chemical engineering professor ...

Discovery of a primordial cancer in a primitive animal

Jun 24, 2014

Every year around 450,000 people in Germany are diagnosed with cancer. Each one of them dreams of a victory in the battle against it. But can cancer ever be completely defeated? Researchers at Kiel University ...

Stem cells hold keys to body's plan

Jun 05, 2014

Case Western Reserve researchers have discovered landmarks within pluripotent stem cells that guide how they develop to serve different purposes within the body. This breakthrough offers promise that scientists ...

Mapping proteins in space and time within cells

May 29, 2014

How many types of proteins are there in a cell? How many of each type are there and where are they at any given time? New methods may shed light on these fundamental biological questions.

Recommended for you

How 'wriggling' skin cancer cells go on the move

6 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at King's College London have discovered a new way that melanoma skin cancer cells can invade healthy tissue and spread round the body, according to research published in Nature Co ...

Breast cancer imaging surgery world-first

6 hours ago

A world-first clinical trial to test new imaging technology that can scan tumours during breast cancer surgery has been launched at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with King's College ...

User comments : 0