Cancer causes stable laws

Rick Durrett (September 14, 2011)

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It is common to use a multitype branching process to model the accumulation of mutations that leads to cancer progression, metastasis, and resistance to treatment. In this talk I will describe results about the time until the first type k (cell with k mutations) and the growth of the type k population obtained in joint work with Stephen Moseley, and their use in evaluating possible screening strategies for ovarian cancer, work in progress with Duke undergraduate Kaveh Danesh. The point process representation of the limit, which is a one-sided stable law, together with results from 10-60 years ago leads to remarkable explicit formulas for Simpson's index and the size of the largest clone. These results are important in understanding tumor diversity which can present serious obstacles to treatment. The last topic is joint work with Jasmine Foo, Kevin Leder, John Mayberry, and Franziska Michor.