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.

The tumor environment and the tempo of somatic evolution

The tumor environment and the tempo of somatic evolution

 P53 stained

P53 stained

David Robert Grimes and Jake Scott, with help of Moffitt scientists (including yours truly), have recently released this pre-print where we explore the impact of the microenvironment, not just on tumor evolution, but on the pace of evolution.

It is easy to generalize but specifically, we looked at the concentration of oxygen in tissues organized hierarchically (like it seems to be the case in the brain and in glioblastomas). We know that the interplay between the heterogeneity in the micro environment and the one in the glioblastoma explains somatic evolution but with the help of an agent-based model (look at the pretty picture featured in the post) we can see not only how one influences the other, we can also see how hypoxic environments increase the birth/death dynamics supporting the hypothesis that different areas of a glioblastoma have different paces of evolution. Using pathology samples collected at Moffitt we checked whether the data is consistent with the hypothesis generated with the model and...well, you'll be surprised to hear that this is the case. By looking at hypoxic and normoxic areas and checking p53 heterogeneity we see more p53 mutations in hypoxic areas which would explain why hypoxia correlates with worse prognoses.

Etienne at the AACR

Etienne at the AACR

March for science 2018

March for science 2018