Most cancers in humans are large, complex composition of billion of cells measuring centimeters in diameter. This has left scientists with a dilemma. One the one hand, some models today allow capturing of the spatial aspects of tumors, however they do not capture their genetic changes. Non-spatial models on the other hand, are able to portray a tumors' evolution, but not its three-dimensional structure, and characteristics.
Martin Nowak, Austrian scientist, and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and Professor of Mathematics and of Biology at Harvard University, has together with scientists from the University of Edinburgh, and Johns Hopkins University now succeeded in developing the first 3-D model of solid tumors.
This new model reflects both, the three-dimensional shape, and the genetic evolution of cancer tumors. Moreover, the new model explains, why cancer cells have a surprising number of genetic mutations in common, how driver mutations spread through the whole tumor, and how drug resistance evolves. Nowak's model currently only suggests, however, it might soon be able to show how targeting short-range cellular migratory activity could have marked effects on tumor growth rates.
Nowak notes to the Medical Press that "Previously, we and others have mostly used non-spatial models to study cancer evolution. But those models do not describe the spatial characteristics of solid tumors. Now, for the first time, we have a computational model that can do that."
The research findings of Nowak and his colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and Johns Hopkins University have been published in the renowned Nature magazine.