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Classical models of tumorigenesis assume that the mutations which cause tumours to grow act in a cell-autonomous fashion. This is not necessarily true. Sometimes tumour cells may adopt genetic strategies that boost their own replication and which also influence other cells in the tumour, whether directly or as a side-effect. Tumour growth as a whole might be enhanced or retarded. We have used mathematical models to study two non-autonomous strategies that tumour cells may use. First, we have considered the production by tumour cells of an angiogenesis growth factor that benefits both the cell from which it originates and neighbouring cells. Second, we have analysed a situation in which tumour cells produce autocrine-only or paracrine-only growth factors to prevent programmed cell death. In the angiogenesis model, stable genetic polymorphisms are likely to occur between cells producing and not producing the growth factor. In the programmed cell death model, cells with autocrine growth factor production can spread throughout the tumour. Production of paracrine-only growth factor is never selected because it is 'altruistic' (that is of no benefit to the cell that makes the growth factor), despite being potentially beneficial to tumour growth as a whole. No polymorphisms can occur in the programmed cell death model. Production of angiogenesis and other growth factors in tumours may be under stable genetic, rather than epigenetic, control, with implications for therapies aimed at such targets. Many of the mutations observed in tumours may have non-autonomous effects.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





157 - 160


Animals, Apoptosis, Cell Survival, Growth Substances, Humans, Models, Biological, Neoplasms, Neovascularization, Pathologic