The role of cell death in the growth of preneoplastic lesions: a Monte Carlo simulation model

Cell Prolif. 1992 Nov;25(6):549-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.1992.tb01459.x.


A variety of experimental and clinical examples of preneoplasia demonstrate that regression of early lesions is common. This paper examines the hypothesis that early lesions operate under the identical growth kinetics of 'late' lesions (neoplasms), but that kinetic features favouring continuous growth in established lesions tend to favour extinction of lesions composed of small numbers of cells. Growth simulations of early lesions were produced using the Monte Carlo method, a technique demanding intensive computations. With the advent of powerful personal computers, this technique is now widely available to biologists. Simulating growth under conditions of cell loss similar to those observed in established tumours, the model predicts that the great majority of initiated cell clusters are expected to reach extinction within a few cell doubling times, and most early (promoted) lesions would not likely progress to the size of a clinically detectable lesion within the life span of the host organism. These Monte Carlo simulations provide a model of initiated cell growth consistent with the recently demonstrated role of early lesion cell death in the development of human lymphomas and in transgenic mice expressing the bcl-2 oncogene. The model demonstrates that small increments in the intrinsic cell loss probability in even the earliest progenitors of malignancy can strongly influence the subsequent development of neoplasia from initiated foci.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Precancerous Conditions / genetics
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology*