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Untangling the model muddle: Empirical tumour growth in Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease

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posted on 2023-05-19, 08:46 authored by Rodrigo Hamede RossRodrigo Hamede Ross, Nicholas Beeton, Scott CarverScott Carver, Menna JonesMenna Jones
A pressing and unresolved topic in cancer research is how tumours grow in the absence of treatment. Despite advances in cancer biology, therapeutic and diagnostic technologies, there is limited knowledge regarding the fundamental growth and developmental patterns in solid tumours. In this ten year study, we estimated growth curves in Tasmanian devil facial tumours, a clonal transmissible cancer, in males and females with two different karyotypes (diploid, tetraploid) and facial locations (mucosal, dermal), using established differential equation models and model selection. Logistic growth was the most parsimonious model for diploid, tetraploid and mucosal tumours, with less model certainty for dermal tumours. Estimates of daily proportional tumour growth rate per day (95% Bayesian CIs) varied with ploidy and location [diploid 0.016 (0.014–0.020), tetraploid 0.026 (0.020–0.033), mucosal 0.013 (0.011–0.015), dermal 0.020 (0.016–0.024)]. Final tumour size (cm3) also varied, particularly the upper credible interval owing to host mortality as tumours approached maximum volume [diploid 364 (136–2,475), tetraploid 172 (100–305), dermal 226 (134–471)]. To our knowledge, these are the first empirical estimates of tumour growth in the absence of treatment in a wild population. Through this animal-cancer system our findings may enhance understanding of how tumour properties interact with growth dynamics in other types of cancer.


University of Tasmania Foundation Inc


Publication title

Scientific Reports



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School of Natural Sciences


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments

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