Modeling cancer using ecological principles

October 3, 2011, BioMed Central

The invasion of a new species into an established ecosystem can be directly compared to the steps involved in cancer metastasis. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling uses the Tilman model of competition between invasive species to study the metastasis of prostate cells into bone.

Approximately 40,000 men a year in the US who have apparently successful surgery or radiotherapy for prostate cancer will suffer incurable metastasis of their disease in bone. The invade the bone marrow and, sometimes after years of remaining dormant, compete with and take over the bone microenvironment.

The Tilman model examines various components of invasion of species into an environment. Kun-Wan Chen and Kenneth J. Pienta from the University of Michigan substituted steps in cancer progression into the Tilman equations. After initially multiplying and undergoing genetic mutation (equivalent to evolution) within the prostate, the leave the prostate and enter the circulation. The next step is a period of survival in circulation followed by invasion into bone.

Once in the bone there is a 'lag period' while the cells establish themselves. Eventually, the cancer cells begin to multiply and out-compete the hematopoietic stem cells. Kun-Wan Chen explained, "The invading cancer cells could be thought of as several species, and the fittest mutants become dominant and multiply. Eventually there is a massive impact on the biosphere (human host)."

Prof Pienta continued, "Devastating ecological invasions are well known. For example introduction of domestic animals to Mauritius resulted in extinction of the dodo and Caulerpa taxifolia, a mutated killer algae, is plaguing the Mediterranean. follows a similar path to that of ecological invasions and our adaptation of the Tilman equations shows how invading cancer cells can destroy the normal body habitat. Use of ecological modeling can help us understand the complex biology of metastasis."

More information: Modeling invasion of metastasizing cancer cells to bone marrow utilizing ecological principles, Kun-Wan Chen and Kenneth J Pienta, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling (in press)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.