Sunday, January 11, 2015

Estimating stem cell fractions in hierarchically organized tumors

Estimating stem cell fractions in hierarchically organized tumors

Abstract

Cancers arise as a result of genetic and epigenetic alterations. These accumulate in cells during the processes of tissue development, homeostasis and repair. Many tumor types are hierarchically organized and driven by a sub-population of cells often called cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are uniquely capable of recapitulating the tumor and can be highly resistant to radio- and chemotherapy treatment. We investigate tumor growth patterns from a theoretical standpoint and show how significant changes in pre- and post-therapy tumor dynamics are tied to the dynamics of cancer stem cells. We identify two characteristic growth regimes of a tumor population that can be leveraged to estimate cancer stem cell fractions in vivo using simple linear regression. Our method is a mathematically exact result, parameter free and does not require any microscopic knowledge of the tumor properties. A more accurate quantification of the direct link between the sub-population driving tumor growth and treatment response promises new ways to individualize treatment strategies.