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Publications about 'cancer'
Articles in journal or book chapters
  1. M.A. Al-Radhawi and E.D. Sontag. Analysis of a reduced model of epithelial-mesenchymal fate determination in cancer metastasis as a singularly-perturbed monotone system. In C.A. Beattie, P. Benner, M. Embree, S. Gugercin, and S. Lefteriu, editors, Realization and Model Reduction of Dynamical Systems. Springer-Verlag, 2020. Note: To appear. See preprint in arXiv:1910.11311. [PDF] Keyword(s): epithelial-mesenchymal transition, miRNA, singular perturbations, monotone systems, oncology, cancer, metastasis, chemical reaction networks, systems biology.
    Abstract:
    Metastasis can occur after malignant cells transition from the epithelial phenotype to the mesenchymal phenotype. This transformation allows cells to migrate via the circulatory system and subsequently settle in distant organs after undergoing the reverse transition. The core gene regulatory network controlling these transitions consists of a system made up of coupled SNAIL/miRNA-34 and ZEB1/miRNA-200 subsystems. In this work, we formulate a mathematical model and analyze its long-term behavior. We start by developing a detailed reaction network with 24 state variables. Assuming fast promoter and mRNA kinetics, we then show how to reduce our model to a monotone four-dimensional system. For the reduced system, monotone dynamical systems theory can be used to prove generic convergence to the set of equilibria for all bounded trajectories. The theory does not apply to the full model, which is not monotone, but we briefly discuss results for singularly-perturbed monotone systems that provide a tool to extend convergence results from reduced to full systems, under appropriate time separation assumptions.


  2. J. M. Greene, C. Sanchez-Tapia, and E.D. Sontag. Mathematical details on a cancer resistance model. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 8:501: 1-27, 2020. [PDF] [doi:10.3389/fbioe.2020.00501] Keyword(s): resistance, chemotherapy, phenotype, optimal control, singular controls, cancer, oncology.
    Abstract:
    One of the most important factors limiting the success of chemotherapy in cancer treatment is the phenomenon of drug resistance. We have recently introduced a framework for quantifying the effects of induced and non-induced resistance to cancer chemotherapy. In this work, we expound on the details relating to an optimal control problem outlined in our previous paper (Greene et al., 2018). The control structure is precisely characterized as a concatenation of bang-bang and path-constrained arcs via the Pontryagin Maximum Principle and differential Lie algebraic techniques. A structural identifiability analysis is also presented, demonstrating that patient-specific parameters may be measured and thus utilized in the design of optimal therapies prior to the commencement of therapy. For completeness, a detailed analysis of existence results is also included.


  3. K. Johnson, G. Howard, D. Morgan, E. Brenner, A. Gardner, R. Durrett, W. Mo, A. Al'Khafaji, E.D. Sontag, A. Jarrett, T. Yankeelov, and A. Brock. Integrating transcriptomics and bulk time course data into a mathematical framework to describe and predict therapeutic resistance in cancer. Physical Biology, 2020. Note: To appear. Keyword(s): oncology, cancer, chemoresistance, resistance, intratumor heterogeneity, population dynamics, DNA barcoding, evolution.
    Abstract:
    The development of resistance to chemotherapy is a major cause of treatment failure in cancer. Intratumoral heterogeneity and phenotypic plasticity play a significant role in therapeutic resistance. Individual cell measurements such as flow and mass cytometry and single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) have been used to capture and analyze this cell variability. In parallel, longitudinal treatment-response data is routinely employed in order to calibrate mechanistic mathematical models of heterogeneous subpopulations of cancer cells viewed as compartments with differential growth rates and drug sensitivities. This work combines both approaches: single cell clonally-resolved transcriptome datasets (scRNA-seq, tagging individual cells with unique barcodes that are integrated into the genome and expressed as sgRNA's) and longitudinal treatment response data, to fit a mechanistic mathematical model of drug resistance dynamics for a MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line. The explicit inclusion of the transcriptomic information in the parameter estimation is critical for identification of the model parameters and enables accurate prediction of new treatment regimens.


  4. A.P. Tran, M. Ali Al-Radhawi, I. Kareva, J. Wu, D.J. Waxman, and E.D. Sontag. Delicate balances in cancer chemotherapy: Modeling immune recruitment and emergence of systemic drug resistance. Frontiers in Immunology, 11:1376-, 2020. [PDF] [doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.01376] Keyword(s): metronomic chemotherapy, cyclophosphamide, mathematical modeling, immune recruitment, cancer, resistance, oncology, immunology.
    Abstract:
    Metronomic chemotherapy can drastically enhance immunogenic tumor cell death. However, the responsible mechanisms are still incompletely understood. Here, we develop a mathematical model to elucidate the underlying complex interactions between tumor growth, immune system activation, and therapy-mediated immunogenic cell death. Our model is conceptually simple, yet it provides a surprisingly excellent fit to empirical data obtained from a GL261 mouse glioma model treated with cyclophosphamide on a metronomic schedule. The model includes terms representing immune recruitment as well as the emergence of drug resistance during prolonged metronomic treatments. Strikingly, a fixed set of parameters, not adjusted for individuals nor for drug schedule, excellently recapitulates experimental data across various drug regimens, including treatments administered at intervals ranging from 6 to 12 days. Additionally, the model predicts peak immune activation times, rediscovering experimental data that had not been used in parameter fitting or in model construction. The validated model was then used to make predictions about expected tumor-immune dynamics for novel drug administration schedules. Notably, the validated model suggests that immunostimulatory and immunosuppressive intermediates are responsible for the observed phenomena of resistance and immune cell recruitment, and thus for variation of responses with respect to different schedules of drug administration.


  5. A.L. Williams, J.E. Fitzgerald, F. Ivich, E.D. Sontag, and M. Niedre. Short-term circulating tumor cell dynamics in mouse xenograft models and implications for liquid biopsy. 2020. Note: Submitted. Also in bioRxiv 814368; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/814368. Keyword(s): circulating tumor cells, liquid biopsy, cancer, oncology, multiple myeloma.
    Abstract:
    Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are widely studied using liquid biopsy methods that analyze single, fractionally-small peripheral blood (PB) samples. However, little is known about fluctuations in CTC numbers that occur over short timescales in vivo, and how these may affect accurate enumeration from blood samples. Diffuse in vivo flow cytometry (DiFC) developed by the Niedre lab allows continuous, non-invasive counting of rare, green fluorescent protein expressing CTCs in large deeply-seated blood vessels in mice. Here, DiFC is used to study short-term changes in CTC numbers in multiple myeloma and Lewis lung carcinoma xenograft models. Both 35- to 50-minute data sets are analyzed, with intervals corresponding to approximately 1, 5, 10 and 20\% of the PB volume, as well as changes over 24-hour periods. For rare CTCs, the use of short DiFC intervals (corresponding to small PB samples) frequently resulted in no detections. For more abundant CTCs, CTC numbers frequently varied by an order of magnitude or more over the time-scales considered. This variability far exceeded that expected by Poisson statistics, and instead was consistent with rapidly changing mean numbers of CTCs in the PB. Because of these natural temporal changes, accurately enumerating CTCs from fractionally small blood samples is inherently problematic. The problem is likely to be compounded for multicellular CTC clusters or specific CTC subtypes. However, it is also shown that enumeration can be improved by averaging multiple samples, analysis of larger volumes, or development of new methods for enumeration of CTCs directly in vivo.


  6. M. A. Al-Radhawi, D. Del Vecchio, and E. D. Sontag. Multi-modality in gene regulatory networks with slow gene binding. PLoS Computational Biology, 15:e1006784, 2019. [PDF] Keyword(s): multistability, gene networks, Markov Chains, Master Equation, cancer heterogeneity, phenotypic variation, nonlinear systems, stochastic systems, epigenetics, chemical master equations.
    Abstract:
    In biological processes such as embryonic development, hematopoietic cell differentiation, and the arising of tumor heterogeneity and consequent resistance to therapy, mechanisms of gene activation and deactivation may play a role in the emergence of phenotypically heterogeneous yet genetically identical (clonal) cellular populations. Mathematically, the variability in phenotypes in the absence of genetic variation can be modeled through the existence of multiple metastable attractors in nonlinear systems subject with stochastic switching, each one of them associated to an alternative epigenetic state. An important theoretical and practical question is that of estimating the number and location of these states, as well as their relative probabilities of occurrence. This paper focuses on a rigorous analytic characterization of multiple modes under slow promoter kinetics, which is a feature of epigenetic regulation. It characterizes the stationary distributions of Chemical Master Equations for gene regulatory networks as a mixture of Poisson distributions. As illustrations, the theory is used to tease out the role of cooperative binding in stochastic models in comparison to deterministic models, and applications are given to various model systems, such as toggle switches in isolation or in communicating populations and a trans-differentiation network.


  7. J.M. Greene, J.L. Gevertz, and E. D. Sontag. A mathematical approach to distinguish spontaneous from induced evolution of drug resistance during cancer treatment. JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics, DOI: 10.1200/CCI.18.00087:1-20, 2019. [PDF] Keyword(s): cancer heterogeneity, phenotypic variation, nonlinear systems, epigenetics, oncology, cancer.
    Abstract:
    Resistance to chemotherapy is a major impediment to the successful treatment of cancer. Classically, resistance has been thought to arise primarily through random genetic mutations, after which mutated cells expand via Darwinian selection. However, recent experimental evidence suggests that the progression to resistance need not occur randomly, but instead may be induced by the therapeutic agent itself.This process of resistance induction can be a result of genetic changes, or can occur through epigenetic alterations that cause otherwise drug-sensitive cancer cells to undergo ``phenotype switching''. This relatively novel notion of resistance further complicates the already challenging task of designing treatment protocols that minimize the risk of evolving resistance. In an effort to better understand treatment resistance, we have developed a mathematical modeling framework that incorporates both random and drug-induced resistance. Our model demonstrates that the ability (or lack thereof) of a drug to induce resistance can result in qualitatively different responses to the same drug dose and delivery schedule. The importance of induced resistance in treatment response led us to ask if, in our model, one can determine the resistance induction rate of a drug for a given treatment protocol. Not only could we prove that the induction parameter in our model is theoretically identifiable, we have also proposed a possible in vitro experiment which could practically be used to determine a treatment's propensity to induce resistance.


  8. E.V. Nikolaev, A. Zloza, and E.D. Sontag. Immunobiochemical reconstruction of influenza lung infection - melanoma skin cancer interactions. Frontiers in Immunology, 10:Article 4, 2019. [PDF] Keyword(s): oncology, cancer, infections, immunology, checkpoint inhibition, systems biology.
    Abstract:
    Recent experimental results from the Zloza lab combined a mouse model of influenza A virus (IAV) infection (A/H1N1/PR8) and a highly aggressive model of infection-unrelated cancer, B16-F10 skin melanoma. This paper showed that acute influenza infection of the lung promotes distal melanoma growth in the dermis of the flank and leads to decreased host survival. Here, we proceed to ground the experimental observations in a mechanistic immunobiochemical model that incorporates the T cell receptor signaling pathway, various transcription factors, and a gene regulatory network (GRN). A core component of our model is a biochemical motif, which we call a Triple Incoherent Feed-Forward Loop (TIFFL), and which reflects known interactions between IRF4, Blimp-1, and Bcl-6. The different activity levels of the TIFFL components, as a function of the cognate antigen levels and the given inflammation context, manifest themselves in phenotypically distinct outcomes. Specifically, both the TIFFL reconstruction and quantitative estimates obtained from the model allowed us to formulate a hypothesis that it is the loss of the fundamental TIFFL-induced adaptation of the expression of PD-1 receptors on anti-melanoma CD8+ T cells that constitutes the essence of the previously unrecognized immunologic factor that promotes the experimentally observed distal tumor growth in the presence of acute non-ocogenic infection. We therefore hope that this work can further highlight the importance of adaptive mechanisms by which immune functions contribute to the balance between self and non-self immune tolerance, adaptive resistance, and the strength of TCR-induced activation, thus contributing to the understanding of a broader complexity of fundamental interactions between pathogens and tumors.


  9. S. Barish, M.F. Ochs, E.D. Sontag, and J.L. Gevertz. Evaluating optimal therapy robustness by virtual expansion of a sample population, with a case study in cancer immunotherapy. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 114:E6277-E6286, 2017. [WWW] [PDF] [doi:10.1073/pnas.1703355114] Keyword(s): cancer, oncolytic therapy, immunotherapy, optimal therapy, identifiability.
    Abstract:
    This paper proposes a technique that combines experimental data, mathematical modeling, and statistical analyses for identifying optimal treatment protocols that are robust with respect to individual variability. Experimental data from a small sample population is amplified using bootstrapping to obtain a large number of virtual populations that statistically match the expected heterogeneity. Alternative therapies chosen from among a set of clinically-realizable protocols are then compared and scored according to coverage. As proof of concept, the method is used to evaluate a treatment with oncolytic viruses and dendritic cell vaccines in a mouse model of melanoma. The analysis shows that while every scheduling variant of an experimentally-utilized treatment protocol is fragile (non-robust), there is an alternative region of dosing space (lower oncolytic virus dose, higher dendritic cell dose) for which a robust optimal protocol exists.


  10. A. Silva, M. Silva, P. Sudalagunta, A. Distler, T. Jacobson, A. Collins, T. Nguyen, J. Song, D.T. Chen, Lu Chen, C. Cubitt, R. Baz, L. Perez, D. Rebatchouk, W. Dalton, J.M. Greene, R. Gatenby, R. Gillies, E.D. Sontag, M. Meads, and K. Shain. An ex vivo platform for the prediction of clinical response in multiple myeloma. Cancer Research, pp 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-0502, 2017. [PDF] Keyword(s): cancer, multiple myeloma, personalized therapy.
    Abstract:
    This paper describes a novel approach for characterization of chemosensitivity and prediction of clinical response in multiple myeloma. It relies upon a patient-specific computational model of clinical response, parameterized by a high-throughput ex vivo assay that quantifies sensitivity of primary MM cells to 31 agents or combinations, in a reconstruction of the tumor microenvironment. The mathematical model, which inherently accounts for intra-tumoral heterogeneity of drug sensitivity, combined with drug- and regimen-specific pharmacokinetics, produces patient-specific predictions of clinical response 5 days post-biopsy.


  11. E.D. Sontag. A dynamical model of immune responses to antigen presentation predicts different regions of tumor or pathogen elimination. Cell Systems, 4:231-241, 2017. [PDF] Keyword(s): scale invariance, fold change detection, T cells, incoherent feedforward loops, immunology, cancer, internal model principle, incoherent feedforward loop, feedforward, IFFL.
    Abstract:
    Since the early 1990s, many authors have independently suggested that self/nonself recognition by the immune system might be modulated by the rates of change of antigen challenges. This paper introduces an extremely simple and purely conceptual mathematical model that allows dynamic discrimination of immune challenges. The main component of the model is a motif which is ubiquitous in systems biology, the incoherent feedforward loop, which endows the system with the capability to estimate exponential growth exponents, a prediction which is consistent with experimental work showing that exponentially increasing antigen stimulation is a determinant of immune reactivity. Combined with a bistable system and a simple feedback repression mechanism, an interesting phenomenon emerges as a tumor growth rate increases: elimination, tolerance (tumor growth), again elimination, and finally a second zone of tolerance (tumor escape). This prediction from our model is analogous to the ``two-zone tumor tolerance'' phenomenon experimentally validated since the mid 1970s. Moreover, we provide a plausible biological instantiation of our circuit using combinations of regulatory and effector T cells.


  12. S. Prabakaran, J. Gunawardena, and E.D. Sontag. Paradoxical results in perturbation-based signaling network reconstruction. Biophysical Journal, 106:2720-2728, 2014. [PDF]
    Abstract:
    This paper describes a potential pitfall of perturbation-based approaches to network inference It is shows experimentally, and then explained mathematically, how even in the simplest signaling systems, perturbation methods may lead to paradoxical conclusions: for any given pair of two components X and Y, and depending upon the specific intervention on Y, either an activation or a repression of X could be inferred. The experiments are performed in an in vitro minimal system, thus isolating the effect and showing that it cannot be explained by feedbacks due to unknown intermediates; this system utilizes proteins from a pathway in mammalian (and other eukaryotic) cells that play a central role in proliferation, gene expression, differentiation, mitosis, cell survival, and apoptosis and is a perturbation target of contemporary therapies for various types of cancers. The results show that the simplistic view of intracellular signaling networks being made up of activation and repression links is seriously misleading, and call for a fundamental rethinking of signaling network analysis and inference methods.


  13. L. Liu, G. Duclos, B. Sun, J. Lee, A. Wu, Y. Kam, E.D. Sontag, H.A. Stone, J.C. Sturm, R.A. Gatenby, and R.H. Austin. Minimization of thermodynamic costs in cancer cell invasion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 110:1686-1691, 2013. [PDF] Keyword(s): chemotaxis, cancer, metastasis.
    Abstract:
    This paper shows that metastatic breast cancer cells cooperatively invade a 3D collagen matrix while following a glucose gradient. The front cell leadership is dynamic, and invading cells act in a cooperative manner by exchanging leaders in the invading front.


  14. T. Riley, E.D. Sontag, P. Chen, and A. Levine. The transcriptional regulation of human p53-regulated genes. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, 9:402-412, 2008. [PDF] Keyword(s): Hidden Markov Models, p53, transcription.
    Abstract:
    The p53 protein regulates the transcription of many different genes in response to a wide variety of stress signals. Following DNA damage, p53 regulates key processes, including DNA repair, cell-cycle arrest, senescence and apoptosis, in order to suppress cancer. This Analysis article provides an overview of the current knowledge of p53-regulated genes in these pathways and others, and the mechanisms of their regulation. In addition, we present the most comprehensive list so far of human p53-regulated genes and their experimentally validated, functional binding sites that confer p53 regulation.


Conference articles
  1. J.M. Greene, C. Sanchez-Tapia, and E.D. Sontag. Control structures of drug resistance in cancer chemotherapy. In Proc. 2018 IEEE Conf. Decision and Control, pages 5195-5200, 2018. [PDF]
    Abstract:
    The primary factor limiting the success of chemotherapy in cancer treatment is the phenomenon of drug resistance. This work extends the work reported in "A mathematical approach to distinguish spontaneous from induced evolution of drug resistance during cancer treatment" by introducing a time-optimal control problem that is analyzed utilizing differential-geometric techniques: we seek a treatment protocol which maximizes the time of treatment until a critical tumor size is reached. The general optimal control structure is determined as a combination of both bang-bang and path-constrained arcs. Numerical results are presented which demonstrate decreasing treatment efficacy as a function of the ability of the drug to induce resistance. Thus, drug-induced resistance may dramatically effect the outcome of chemotherapy, implying that factors besides cytotoxicity should be considered when designing treatment regimens.


  2. E.D. Sontag. Some remarks on immune control of infections and tumors. In Proc. IEEE Conf. Decision and Control, Dec. 2016, pages 2476-2480, 2016. [PDF] Keyword(s): scale invariance, fold change detection, T cells, incoherent feedforward loops, immunology, cancer.
    Abstract:
    This is a conference paper related to the journal paper "A dynamical model of immune responses to antigen presentation predicts different regions of tumor or pathogen elimination". The conference paper includes several theorems for a simplified model which were not included in the journal paper.


Internal reports
  1. J.L. Gevertz, J.M. Greene, and E.D. Sontag. Validation of a mathematical model of cancer incorporating spontaneous and induced evolution to drug resistance. Technical report, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019. Note: BioRxiv preprint 10.1101/2019.12.27.889444. Keyword(s): cancer heterogeneity, phenotypic variation, nonlinear systems, epigenetics, optimal control theory, oncology, cancer.
    Abstract:
    This paper continues the study of a model which was introduced in earlier work by the authors to study spontaneous and induced evolution to drug resistance under chemotherapy. The model is fit to existing experimental data, and is then validated on additional data that had not been used when fitting. In addition, an optimal control problem is studied numerically.


  2. A. P. Tran, M. A. Al-Radhawi, I. Kareva, J. Wu, D. J. Waxman, and E. D. Sontag. Delicate balances in cancer chemotherapy: modeling immune recruitment and emergence of systemic drug resistance. Technical report, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019. Note: BioRxiv 2019.12.12.874891. Keyword(s): chemotherapy, immunology, immune system, oncology, cancer, metronomic.
    Abstract:
    Metronomic chemotherapy can drastically enhance immunogenic tumor cell death. However, the responsible mechanisms are still incompletely understood. Here, we develop a mathematical model to elucidate the underlying complex interactions between tumor growth, immune system activation, and therapy-mediated immunogenic cell death. Our model is conceptually simple, yet it provides a surprisingly excellent fit to empirical data obtained from a GL261 mouse glioma model treated with cyclophosphamide on a metronomic schedule. The model includes terms representing immune recruitment as well as the emergence of drug resistance during prolonged metronomic treatments. Strikingly, a fixed set of parameters, not adjusted for individuals nor for drug schedule, excellently recapitulates experimental data across various drug regimens, including treatments administered at intervals ranging from 6 to 12 days. Additionally, the model predicts peak immune activation times, rediscovering experimental data that had not been used in parameter fitting or in model construction. The validated model was then used to make predictions about expected tumor-immune dynamics for novel drug administration schedules. Notably, the validated model suggests that immunostimulatory and immunosuppressive intermediates are responsible for the observed phenomena of resistance and immune cell recruitment, and thus for variation of responses with respect to different schedules of drug administration.


  3. J.M. Greene, C. Sanchez-Tapia, and E.D. Sontag. Mathematical details on a cancer resistance model. Technical report, bioRxiv 2018/475533, 2018. [PDF] Keyword(s): identifiability, drug resistance, chemotherapy, optimal control theory, singular controls, oncology, cancer.
    Abstract:
    The primary factor limiting the success of chemotherapy in cancer treatment is the phenomenon of drug resistance. We have recently introduced a framework for quantifying the effects of induced and non-induced resistance to cancer chemotherapy . In this work, the control structure is precisely characterized as a concatenation of bang-bang and path-constrained arcs via the Pontryagin Maximum Principle and differential Lie techniques. A structural identfiability analysis is also presented, demonstrating that patient-specfic parameters may be measured and thus utilized in the design of optimal therapies prior to the commencement of therapy.


  4. E.D. Sontag. Two-zone tumor tolerance can arise from a simple immunological feedforward motif that estimates tumor growth rates. Technical report, bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/095455, 2016. [PDF] Keyword(s): scale invariance, fold change detection, T cells, incoherent feedforward loops, immunology, cancer.
    Abstract:
    Preprint version of "A dynamical model of immune responses to antigen presentation predicts different regions of tumor or pathogen elimination", appeared in Cell Systems 2017. However, the journal version does not include Section 9 on degradation-based IFFL's from this preprint.



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