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Proc Biol Sci. Oct 7, 2003; 270(1528): 2017–2024.
PMCID: PMC1691466

Stochastic elimination of cancer cells.


Tissues of multicellular organisms consist of stem cells and differentiated cells. Stem cells divide to produce new stem cells or differentiated cells. Differentiated cells divide to produce new differentiated cells. We show that such a tissue design can reduce the rate of fixation of mutations that increase the net proliferation rate of cells. It has, however, no consequence for the rate of fixation of neutral mutations. We calculate the optimum relative abundance of stem cells that minimizes the rate of generating cancer cells. There is a critical fraction of stem cell divisions that is required for a stochastic elimination ('wash out') of cancer cells.

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