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Cancer Inform. 2015 Feb 24;14(Suppl 2):25-36. doi: 10.4137/CIN.S17294. eCollection 2015.

What Tumor Dynamics Modeling Can Teach us About Exploiting the Stem-Cell View for Better Cancer Treatment.

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Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


The cancer stem cell hypothesis is that in human solid cancers, only a small proportion of the cells, the cancer stem cells (CSCs), are self-renewing; the vast majority of the cancer cells are unable to sustain tumor growth indefinitely on their own. In recent years, discoveries have led to the concentration, if not isolation, of putative CSCs. The evidence has mounted that CSCs do exist and are important. This knowledge may promote better understanding of treatment resistance, create opportunities to test agents against CSCs, and open up promise for a fresh approach to cancer treatment. The first clinical trials of new anti-CSC agents are completed, and many others follow. Excitement is mounting that this knowledge will lead to major improvements, even breakthroughs, in treating cancer. However, exploitation of this phenomenon may be more successful if informed by insights into the population dynamics of tumor development. We revive some ideas in tumor dynamics modeling to extract some guidance in designing anti-CSC treatment regimens and the clinical trials that test them.


branching processes; cancer stem cells; clinical trials; tumor heterogeneity

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