The recently developed concept of cancer stem cells (CSC) sheds new light on various aspects of tumor growth and progression. Here, we present a mathematical model of malignancies to investigate how a hierarchical organized cancer cell population affects the fundamental properties of solid malignancies. We establish that tumors modeled in a CSC context more faithfully resemble human malignancies and show invasive behavior, whereas tumors without a CSC hierarchy do not. These findings are corroborated by in vitro studies. In addition, we provide evidence that the CSC model is accompanied by highly altered evolutionary dynamics compared with the ones predicted to exist in a stochastic, nonhierarchical tumor model. Our main findings indicate that the CSC model allows for significantly higher tumor heterogeneity, which may affect therapy resistance. Moreover, we show that therapy which fails to target the CSC population is not only unsuccessful in curing the patient, but also promotes malignant features in the recurring tumor. These include rapid expansion, increased invasion, and enhanced heterogeneity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research