Embargo expired: 6/16/2011 6:00 AM EDT
Source: Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Newswise — Washington, DC – The first roadmap to mathematical modeling of a powerful basic “decision circuit” in breast cancer has been developed and published in Nature Reviews Cancer.
The preliminary mathematical model is the first result of a $7.5 million federal grant, awarded to scientists at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and collaborators at Virginia Tech and Fox Chase Cancer Center, to develop a systems approach to understanding and treating one of the most common forms of breast cancer.
“A cell is an information processing system and cancer cells make decisions that promote their growth, so we are striving to understand how these cells make mathematically-based choices based on inputs, processing, and outputs,” says lead investigator Robert Clarke, PhD, DSc, a professor of oncology at Lombardi and GUMC’s newly appointed Dean for Research.
The model, which is being built in modules, is designed to understand estrogen signaling in breast cancer cells, and by extension, why some cancer cells are susceptible to endocrine therapy while others are not. The estrogen hormone drives over half of the 180,000 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed each year, yet endocrine therapies designed to shut down this growth pathway are not as successful as simpler, human-derived models would have predicted, Clarke says.
“We need an engineering approach to a biological problem, and this is a very novel, and promising, start,” says Clarke. “No one has built a model of breast cancer cell fate decision making like this before.”