School of Mathematics

Predicting Metastasis from Primary Tumour Size

Tibor Antal and Stefano Avanzini have created a mathematical model for predicting undetectable secondary tumours in cancer patients.

As cancer grows within an individual there is a risk that cells can spread from the initial tumour to other areas of the body, establishing secondary tumours called metastases. These secondary tumours are typically associated with a poorer prognosis for the individual and can require further treatment and surgeries. At this time, it is not possible to detect early stage metastases using screening techniques.

Tibor and Stefano have created a response to this; a method for predicting these undetectable secondary tumours. This is accomplished by using a model where metastatic lesions are initiated at a rate that depends on the size of the primary tumour. The evolution of each metastasis is described as an independent branching process.

Results indicated that only very early resections could prevent cancer recurrence with small delays in the time of surgeries significantly increasing the possibility of recurrence. The model estimates that even a two month delay of surgery can increase the chance of metastasis formation by as much as ten percent.

This article has been represented in the press with articles from both America and Italy commenting on the work and discussing its implications.

American press releases:

Italian press releases: