In many cancer entities, the primary tumour is able to spread metastases to distant sites in our body. In the majority of cases the fatality is not caused by the pri-mary tumour but the metastases. Despite intensive research in the last decades, many details of this process are still not understood. Our collaboration developed a computer model that enables quantitative investigations of the metastatic progression. Different models of metastatic progression were compared with clinical and experimental data to gain new insights into this process.
The computer model is based on a discrete event simulation. Analytical functions describe the growth of the primary tumour and the metastases whereas intravasation event models the invasion of cancer cells from the primary tumour into the bloodstream. Further events simulate the behaviour of this cell until it either dies or founds a new metastasis. Clinical and experimental data were analysed to investigate, whether metastases spread early or late during the course of the disease, if metastases themselves are also able to metastasize and the impact of the immune system on the process of metastasis formation.
Furthermore, different therapies such as resection of the primary tumour, chemotherapy or radiotherapy and its impact on the number of metastases and the tumour burden were simulated.