Genomic instability causes cancers to acquire hundreds to thousands of mutations and chromosomal alterations during their somatic evolution. Most of these mutations and alterations are termed passengers because they do not confer cancer phenotypes. Evolutionary simulations and cancer genomic studies suggested that mildly-deleterious passengers accumulate, collectively slow cancer progression, reduce the fitness of cancer cells and enhance the effects of therapeutics. However, these effects of passengers and their impact on clinical variables remain limited to genomic analysis. Here, to assess passengers' effect on cell fitness and cancer, we specifically introduced increasing passenger loads into human cell lines and mouse models. We found that passenger load dramatically reduced cancer cell's fitness in every model investigated. Passengers' average fitness cost of ~3% per MB, indicates that genomic instability in cancer in patients can slow tumor growth and prevent metastatic progression. We conclude that genomic instability in cancer is a double-edged sword: it accelerates the accumulation of adaptive drivers, yet incurs a harmful passenger load that can outweigh drivers' benefit. Passenger load could be a useful biomarker for tumor aggressiveness and response to mutagenic or passenger-exacerbating therapies, including anti-tumor immunity.
The oxygen status of a tumor has significant clinical implications for treatment prognosis, with well-oxygenated subvolumes responding markedly better to radiotherapy than poorly supplied regions. Oxygen is essential for tumor growth, yet estimation of local oxygen distribution can be difficult to ascertain in situ, due to chaotic patterns of vasculature. It is possible to avoid this confounding influence by using avascular tumor models, such as Multi-Cellular Tumor Spheroids (MCTS), where oxygen supply can be described by diffusion alone and are a much better approximation of realistic tumor dynamics than monolayers. Similar to in situ tumours, spheroids exhibit an approximately sigmoidal growth curve, often approximated and fitted by logistic and Gompertzian sigmoid functions. These describe the basic rate of growth well, but do not offer an explicitly mechanistic explanation. This work examines the oxygen dynamics of spheroids and demonstrates that this growth can be derived mechanistically with cellular doubling time and oxygen consumption rate (OCR) being key parameters. The model is fitted to growth curves for a range of cell lines and derived values of OCR are validated using clinical measurement. Finally, we illustrate how changes in OCR due to gemcitabine treatment can be directly inferred using this model.
Simple and ubiquitous gene interactions create rugged fitness landscapes composed of coadapted gene complexes separated by “valleys” of low fitness. Crossing such fitness valleys allows a population to escape suboptimal local fitness peaks to become better adapted. This is the premise of Sewall Wright’s shifting balance process. Here we generalize the theory of fitness-valley crossing in the two-locus, biallelic case by allowing bias in parent-offspring transmission. This generalization extends the existing mathematical framework to genetic systems with segregation distortion and uniparental inheritance. Our results are also flexible enough to provide insight into shifts between alternate stable states in cultural systems with “transmission valleys”. Using a semi-deterministic analysis and a stochastic diffusion approximation, we focus on the limiting step in valley crossing: the first appearance of the genotype on the new fitness peak whose lineage will eventually fix. We then apply our results to specific cases of segregation distortion, uniparental inheritance, and cultural transmission. Segregation distortion favouring mutant alleles facilitates crossing most when recombination and mutation are rare, i.e., scenarios where crossing is otherwise unlikely. Interactions with more mutable genes (e.g., uniparental inherited cytoplasmic elements) substantially reduce crossing times. Despite component traits being passed on poorly in the previous cultural background, small advantages in the transmission of a new combination of cultural traits can greatly facilitate a cultural transition. While peak shifts are unlikely under many of the common assumptions of population genetic theory, relaxing some of these assumptions can promote fitness-valley crossing.