Metastatic disease develops in accordance with the model of Tilman, which describe interspecific competition in ecological communities.
Researchers from the University of Michigan (USA) attempted to describe the growth and development of secondary cancers by Tilman model. Usually this method is used to estimate interspecific competition, with the model takes into account the consumption of resources consumed by each species.
But in this study, the researchers examined species as healthy and cancerous cells. Served as a model object with prostate cancer, which is characterized metastasize to the bone marrow. The tumor of the prostate can be successfully removed and healed by chemotherapy. But over the years her cell, trapped in the bone marrow, wake up and cause a new cancer — blood.
The researchers likened the invasion of cancer cells into bone appearance of a new species. Just as the evolution and selection lead to speciation, and then looking for a new kind of place in the sun, genetic mutations and cell proliferation in the prostate end that some cancer cells leave the parent tumor and go wandering through the body. Surviving in the bloodstream and without getting hit immunity, they are deposited in the bone marrow. Then begins the lag period, during which the cells are getting used to their new surroundings. Finally, they come out of hibernation, there is an explosive increase in their numbers and the displacement of the "ecological niche" of indigenous inhabitants — bone marrow stem cells.
As the researchers wrote in the journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, metastatic cells can be compared with the lucky species that a mutation are more adapted to a particular environment, formed long before their appearance. For their effective use of resources, they can easily displace the old species. Cancer cells — the same as that introduced and invasive species: to imagine what cancer does to the human body, just look at how the notorious toad yeah deals with the Australian fauna.
The researchers hope that their findings will help doctors in dealing with 'sleeping' tumor metastasis.