The pattern of growth of human breast cancer is important theoretically and clinically. Speer et al. (Cancer Res., 44: 4124–4130, 1984) have recently proposed that all individual tumors initially grow with identical Gompertzian parameters, but subsequently develop kinetic heterogeneity by a random time-dependent process. This concept has elicited interest because it fits clinical data for the survival of untreated patients, for the progression of shadows on serial paired mammograms, and for time-to-relapse following mastectomy. The success of these curve-fits is compelling, and the model has been applied to clinical trials. However, the assumption of uniform nascent growth is not supported by theory or data, and individual cancers have not been shown to follow the complex growth curves predicted by the Speer model. As an alternative, if kinetic heterogeneity is understood to be an intrinsic property of neoplasia, the same three historical data sets are fit well by an unadorned Gompertzian model which is parsimonious and has many other intuitive and empirical advantages. The two models differ significantly in such clinical projections as the estimated duration of silent growth prior to diagnosis and the anticipated optimal chemotherapy schedule postsurgery.


Supported in part by the Chemotherapy Foundation, New York, and the T. J. Martell Memorial Foundation, New York.

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