Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in many countries. Solid tumors generally initiate at one particular site called the primary tumor, but eventually disseminate and form new colonies in other organs. The development of such metastases greatly diminishes the potential for a cure of patients and is thought to represent the final stage of the multi-stage progression of human cancer. The concept of early metastatic dissemination, however, postulates that cancer cell spread might arise early during the development of a tumor. It is important to know whether metastases are present at diagnosis since this determines treatment strategies and outcome. In this paper, we design a stochastic mathematical model of the evolution of tumor metastases in an expanding cancer cell population. We calculate the probability of metastasis at a given time during tumor evolution, the expected number of metastatic sites, and the total number of cancer cells as well as metastasized cells. Furthermore, we investigate the effect of drug administration and tumor resection on these quantities and predict the survival time of cancer patients. The model presented in this paper allows us to determine the probability and number of metastases at diagnosis and to identify the optimum treatment strategy to maximally prolong survival of cancer patients.
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.