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Front Oncol. 2013 Mar 6;3:45. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.00045. eCollection 2013.

Tumor evolution in space: the effects of competition colonization tradeoffs on tumor invasion dynamics.

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  • 1Biometry Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute Rockville, MD, USA.


We apply competition colonization tradeoff models to tumor growth and invasion dynamics to explore the hypothesis that varying selection forces will result in predictable phenotypic differences in cells at the tumor invasive front compared to those in the core. Spatially, ecologically, and evolutionarily explicit partial differential equation models of tumor growth confirm that spatial invasion produces selection pressure for motile phenotypes. The effects of the invasive phenotype on normal adjacent tissue determine the patterns of growth and phenotype distribution. If tumor cells do not destroy their environment, colonizer and competitive phenotypes coexist with the former localized at the invasion front and the latter, to the tumor interior. If tumors cells do destroy their environment, then cell motility is strongly selected resulting in accelerated invasion speed with time. Our results suggest that the widely observed genetic heterogeneity within cancers may not be the stochastic effect of random mutations. Rather, it may be the consequence of predictable variations in environmental selection forces and corresponding phenotypic adaptations.


competition colonization tradeoff; partial differential equation model; spatial ecology; spatial selection; tumor invasion

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