Based at the Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida, Cancer Ecology is a small research group led by David Basanta. We are mathematical modellers who work with biologists and clinicians, trying to understand the ecology of tumors and the evolutionary dynamics of cancer progression and resistance to treatment.

Microenvironment and somatic evolution

I have not posted anything in this blog for quite some time. Attending workshops (I had one in Dresden today) and visiting collaborators (I am off to Lyon tomorrow) leaves precious little time for blogging. Which is not to say that nothing is happening, quite the opposite.

My trip tomorrow will allow me to meet Dr. Benjamin Ribba (Universite Claude Bernard) with whom I am investigating the role of the microenvironment in driving cancer evolution. We start from the hypothesis put forward by Hanahan and Weinberg 7 years ago that tumour cells have to acquire a number of capabilities if a group of rapidly and unorderly dividing cells is to become a cancer. The capabilities mentioned in their paper (Cell, 2000, Vol 100, 57-70) are: unlimited replicative potential, self sufficiency of growth signals, ignoring anti growth signals, angiogenesis,evasion of apoptosis and invasiveness. Now, from the evolutionary view point, what makes a cell with a particular phenotype (resulting from acquiring one or more of these capabilities) more or less successful is its capability to produce offspring and this capability will depend on how this phenotype adapts and modifies the microenvironment it inhabits. Different microenvironments are likely to lead to cancers that become aggressive using different different paths (of capability acquisition). It might even be the case that we could find out which microenvironments are more likely to lead to cancers in which this path takes longer or does not occur in a relevant amount of time (that is, the normal life span of a human being).

Somehow not entirely related to the post today, browsing ScienceDaily I found this entry. It mentions how vitamin C could help prevent cancer but in a way different from what many people would expect. It seems that it is not that as an antioxidant it helps prevent damage in the DNA but that it prevents tumour cells from surviving in environments with low concentrations of oxygen.

Mercenary immune cells can fight your cancer

Summer school in Dundee