Effects of space structure and combination therapies on phenotypic heterogeneity and drug resistance in solid tumors
(Submitted on 21 Dec 2013)
Histopathological evidence supports the idea that the emergence of phenotypic heterogeneity and resistance to cytotoxic drugs can be considered as a process of adaptation, or evolution, in tumor cell populations. In this framework, can we explain intra-tumor heterogeneity in terms of cell adaptation to local conditions? How do anti-cancer therapies affect the outcome of cell competition for nutrients within solid tumors? Can we overcome the emergence of resistance and favor the eradication of cancer cells by using combination therapies? Bearing these questions in mind, we develop a model describing cell dynamics inside a tumor spheroid under the effects of cytotoxic and cytostatic drugs. Cancer cells are assumed to be structured as a population by two real variables standing for space position and the expression level of a cytotoxic resistant phenotype. The model takes explicitly into account the dynamics of resources and anti-cancer drugs as well as their interactions with the cell population under treatment. We analyze the effects of space structure and combination therapies on phenotypic heterogeneity and chemotherapeutic resistance. Furthermore, we study the efficacy of combined therapy protocols based on constant infusion and/or bang-bang delivery of cytotoxic and cytostatic drugs.