Author(s): Gatenby RA, Frieden BR
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Abstract The storage and transmission of information is vital to the function of normal and transformed cells. We use methods from information theory and Monte Carlo theory to analyze the role of information in carcinogenesis. Our analysis demonstrates that, during somatic evolution of the malignant phenotype, the accumulation of genomic mutations degrades intracellular information. However, the degradation is constrained by the Darwinian somatic ecology in which mutant clones proliferate only when the mutation confers a selective growth advantage. In that environment, genes that normally decrease cellular proliferation, such as tumor suppressor or differentiation genes, suffer maximum information degradation. Conversely, those that increase proliferation, such as oncogenes, are conserved or exhibit only gain of function mutations. These constraints shield most cellular populations from catastrophic mutator-induced loss of the transmembrane entropy gradient and, therefore, cell death. The dynamics of constrained information degradation during carcinogenesis cause the tumor genome to asymptotically approach a minimum information state that is manifested clinically as dedifferentiation and unconstrained proliferation. Extreme physical information (EPI) theory demonstrates that altered information flow from cancer cells to their environment will manifest in-vivo as power law tumor growth with an exponent of size 1.62. This prediction is based only on the assumption that tumor cells are at an absolute information minimum and are capable of "free field" growth that is, they are unconstrained by external biological parameters. The prediction agrees remarkably well with several studies demonstrating power law growth in small human breast cancers with an exponent of 1.72+/-0.24. This successful derivation of an analytic expression for cancer growth from EPI alone supports the conceptual model that carcinogenesis is a process of constrained information degradation and that malignant cells are minimum information systems. EPI theory also predicts that the estimated age of a clinically observed tumor is subject to a root-mean square error of about 30\%. This is due to information loss and tissue disorganization and probably manifests as a randomly variable lag phase in the growth pattern that has been observed experimentally. This difference between tumor size and age may impose a fundamental limit on the efficacy of screening based on early detection of small tumors. Independent of the EPI analysis, Monte Carlo methods are applied to predict statistical tumor growth due to perturbed information flow from the environment into transformed cells. A "simplest" Monte Carlo model is suggested by the findings in the EPI approach that tumor growth arises out of a minimally complex mechanism. The outputs of large numbers of simulations show that (a) about 40\% of the populations do not survive the first two-generations due to mutations in critical gene segments; but (b) those that do survive will experience power law growth identical to the predicted rate obtained from the independent EPI approach. The agreement between these two very different approaches to the problem strongly supports the idea that tumor cells regress to a state of minimum information during carcinogenesis, and that information dynamics are integrally related to tumor development and growth.
This article was published in Mutat Res
and referenced in Journal of Physical Chemistry & Biophysics