Using computer models of the architecture of tumors on the trail

Using computer models of the architecture of tumors on the trail

 

Researchers at ETH Zurich have used computer simulations to show that the tissue structure of various types of cancer makes a decisive contribution to how a tumor develops. In the future, this information could help to treat patients in a more targeted manner. […]

Cancer therapy is one of the most complex areas of medicine, because every tumor is different. From a degenerated cancer cell grows a mosaic of cell populations that are constantly acquiring new mutations. And each of these cell populations – so–called clones – can react differently to therapy.

Modern therapeutic approaches specifically combat those clones that significantly contribute to the growth of the tumor. Doctors take tumor tissue and determine the relative size of the different cell populations as well as their specific mutations by means of DNA sequencing.

However, it often remains unclear whether and why a certain cell population prevails in a tumor; predicting the further development of cancer and choosing the right therapy based on this is correspondingly difficult.

Computer model shows tumor development

Now, an international research team led by Niko Beerenwinkel, professor at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel, has shown that the tissue architecture in various types of cancer makes a decisive contribution to how cell populations spread in tumors.

To this end, the researchers simulated tumor development using a computer model that, unlike previous models, also takes into account the cellular structure of various tissues. They published their results in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

“The cell populations in tumors compete with each other for limiting resources such as space, nutrients and oxygen,” explains Robert Noble, first author of the study. Whether a new mutation gives a cell population a survival advantage therefore depends on how it interacts with neighboring cells.

Computer model shows tumor development

Now, an international research team led by Niko Beerenwinkel, professor at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel, has shown that the tissue architecture in various types of cancer makes a decisive contribution to how cell populations spread in tumors.

To this end, the researchers simulated tumor development using a computer model that, unlike previous models, also takes into account the cellular structure of various tissues. They published their results in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

“The cell populations in tumors compete with each other for limiting resources such as space, nutrients and oxygen,” explains Robert Noble, first author of the study. Whether a new mutation gives a cell population a survival advantage therefore depends on how it interacts with neighboring cells.

Cancer cells are constantly in competition

In blood cancer, for example, there are countless stem cells in the bone marrow in a large, uniform pool. A degenerated stem cell with a mutation that provides a survival advantage can quickly establish itself in this cell pool.

Niko Beerenwinkel from ETH is on the trail with computer simulations of the architecture of tumors (c) Pino Covino/ETHZ

In the development of colorectal cancer, on the other hand, the cells lie in small niches, which are limited by the intestinal villi. Due to the strong structure of the habitat, cancer cells with beneficial mutations spread only slowly.

The theory that the tissue structure influences the number and size of different cell populations in a tumor has existed in cancer research for a long time. However, the new study is the first to systematically study this aspect.

Simulations coincide with architecture of real tumors

The newly developed computer model simulates the spread of mutated cell populations for different types of cancer. For each type of cancer, the researchers conducted thousands of simulations and compared the results with spatially resolved DNA sequencing data from preparations of real human tumors. The result: the predictions of the computer model match the clinical data.

“Our results show that the special spatial structure of each tumor must be taken into account in order to obtain an accurate picture of the processes,” says Beerenwinkel.

The present study also provides the blueprint for a new generation of patient-specific models in cancer diagnostics. Noble, who now heads his own group at City University London, says: “In the future, doctors will be able to use these models to better predict whether a particular tumor will respond to therapy.»

This article first appeared on ETH News.

Unity 3D Development Outsourcing | IT Outsource Support

Ready to see us in action:

More To Explore

IWanta.tech
Logo
Enable registration in settings - general
Have any project in mind?

Contact us:

small_c_popup.png