"Invasion of homogeneous and polyploid populations in nutrient-limiting environments"
Breast cancer progresses in a multistep process from primary tumor growth and stroma invasion to metastasis. Progression is accompanied by a switch to an invasive cell phenotype. Nutrient-limiting environments promote chemotaxis with aggressive morphologies characteristic of invasion. It is unknown how co-existing cells differ in their response to nutrient limitations and how this impacts invasion of the metapopulation as a whole. We integrate mathematical modeling with microenvironmental perturbation-data to investigate invasion in nutrient-limiting environments inhabited by one or two cancer cell subpopulations. Hereby, subpopulations are defined by their energy efficiency and chemotactic ability. We estimate the invasion-distance traveled by a homogeneous population. For heterogeneous populations, our results suggest that an imbalance between nutrient efficacy and chemotactic superiority accelerates invasion. Such imbalance will spatially segregate the two populations and only one type will dominate at the invasion front. Only if these two phenotypes are balanced do the two subpopulations compete for the same space, which decelerates invasion. We investigate ploidy as a candidate biomarker of this phenotypic heterogeneity to discern circumstances when inhibiting chemotaxis amplifies internal competition and decelerates tumor progression, from circumstances that render clinical consequences of chemotactic inhibition unfavorable.