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Evolution in Health and Disease$
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Stephen C. Stearns and Jacob C. Koella

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199207466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199207466.001.0001

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Cancer as a microevolutionary process

Cancer as a microevolutionary process

(p.289) Chapter 22 Cancer as a microevolutionary process
Evolution in Health and Disease

Natalia L. Komarova

Dominik Wodarz

Oxford University Press

Mathematical models of cancer evolution can provide helpful insights. This chapter describes a way to model cancer in which carcinogenesis is a microevolutionary process inside an organ. It uses both stochastic methods and methods of evolutionary population dynamics and focuses on two particular problems: (a) the role of genetic instability in cancer initiation and progression; and (b) the problem of resistance in cancer treatment with small molecule inhibitors. The dynamics are generated by cell reproduction and mutation, and by the selection pressures that act on the different cell variants. These dynamics can be captured in equations which yield insights into the outcome of these complex processes that would otherwise not be possible. The general message of this review is that population dynamics and evolutionary thinking can provide a new dimension to cancer research, which complements the molecular and cell-focused approach that is primarily used.

Keywords:   carcinogenesis, microevolution, chemotherapy, resistance, somatic mutation, mathematical models

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