Emergence of tumor resistance to an anti-cancer therapy directed against a putative target raises several questions including: (1) do mutations in the target/pathway confer resistance? (2) Are these mutations pre-existing? (3) What is the relative fitness of cells with/without the mutation? We addressed these questions in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). We conducted an exhaustive review of published data to establish a median doubling time for CRCs and stained a cohort of CRCs to document mitotic indices. We analyzed published data and our own data to calculate rates of growth (g) and regression (d, decay) of tumors in patients with CRC correlating these results with the detection of circulating MT-KRAS DNA. Additionally we estimated mathematically the caloric burden of such tumors using data on mitotic and apoptotic indices. We conclude outgrowth of cells harboring intrinsic or acquired MT-KRAS cannot explain resistance to anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) antibodies. Rates of tumor growth with panitumumab are unaffected by presence/ absence of MT-KRAS. While MT-KRAS cells may be resistant to anti-EGFR antibodies, WT-KRAS cells also rapidly bypass this blockade suggesting inherent resistance mechanisms are responsible and a neutral evolution model is most appropriate. Using the above clinical data on tumor doubling times and mitotic and apoptotic indices we estimated the caloric intake required to support tumor growth and suggest it may explain in part cancer-associated cachexia.
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