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Journal Article

An emerging allee effect is critical for tumor initiation and persistence


Cavalcanti-Adam,  Elisabetta Ada
Cellular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Max Planck Society;
Biophysical Chemistry, Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany;

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Böttger, K., Hatzikirou, H., Voss-Böhme, A., Cavalcanti-Adam, E. A., Herrero, M. A., & Deutsch, A. (2015). An emerging allee effect is critical for tumor initiation and persistence. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(9): 1004366, pp. 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004366.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-155B-E
Tumor cells develop different strategies to cope with changing microenvironmental conditions. A prominent example is the adaptive phenotypic switching between cell migration and proliferation. While it has been shown that the migration-proliferation plasticity influences tumor spread, it remains unclear how this particular phenotypic plasticity affects overall tumor growth, in particular initiation and persistence. To address this problem, we formulate and study a mathematical model of spatio-temporal tumor dynamics which incorporates the microenvironmental influence through a local cell density dependence. Our analysis reveals that two dynamic regimes can be distinguished. If cell motility is allowed to increase with local cell density, any tumor cell population will persist in time, irrespective of its initial size. On the contrary, if cell motility is assumed to decrease with respect to local cell density, any tumor population below a certain size threshold will eventually extinguish, a fact usually termed as Allee effect in ecology. These results suggest that strategies aimed at modulating migration are worth to be explored as alternatives to those mainly focused at keeping tumor proliferation under control.