Structural and Computational Biology Programme
Spanish National Cancer Centre (CNIO)
Normal somatic cells divide only a limited number of times reaching a state known as replicative senescence. This restraint in reproductive potential has been proposed as a mechanism evolved in higher eukaryotes to protect the organism from developing cancer. However, despite this protection there is a positive correlation between tumor incidence and organism aging when cells are potentially closer to their replication limit. We use simple mathematical models derived from quasispecies theory to analyze the role of senescence in various scenarios with different cell types according to their replicative capacity. The models predict that a situation with cells launching more often the senescence response plays against tissue homeostasis favoring tumor initiation. It is also shown that cancer cells arising early in organism life are more sensitive to genetic instabilities progressing less often toward tissue invasion. The passage of cells through crisis emerges as a mechanism to maintain tissue homeostasis that is weakened in aged individuals. The models introduced, though simple, help to integrate experimental information relating tumorigenesis with cellular and organism aging phenomena.