Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Using Mathematical Modelling in the Fight Against Cancer

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Different treatments and genetic modifications might allow cancer-killing, oncolytic viruses to overcome the natural defences that cancer cells use.

“Oncolytic viruses are special in that they specifically target cancer cells,” explains Dr. Bell, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Medicine. “Unfortunately, cancer is a very complicated and diverse disease, and some viruses work well in some circumstances and not well in others. As a result, there has been a lot of effort in trying to modify the viruses to make them safe, so they don’t target healthy tissue and yet are more efficient in eliminating cancer cells.”

Dr. Bell and co-author Dr. Mads Kaern, an assistant professor in the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Medicine and Canada Research Chair at the University's Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology, led a team that has used mathematical modelling to devise strategies for making cancer cells exquisitely sensitive to virus infection — killing them without affecting normal, healthy cells.

"By using these mathematical models to predict how viral modifications would actually impact cancer cells and normal cells, we are able to accelerate the pace of research," says Dr. Kaern, who is also cross-appointed to the University’s Department of Physics. "It allows us to quickly identify the most promising approaches to be tested in the lab, something that is usually done through expensive and time-consuming trial and error."

Drs. Bell and Kaern have established a mathematical model that described an infection cycle, including the way a virus replicated, spread and activated cellular defense mechanisms. From there, they used knowledge about key physiological differences between normal cells and cancer cells to identify how modifying the genome of the virus might counter the anti-viral defenses of cancer cells. Model simulations were remarkably accurate, with the identified viral modifications efficiently eradicating cancer in a mouse model of the disease.

"What is remarkable is how well we could actually predict the experimental outcome based on computational analysis,” says Dr. Bell. “This work creates a useful framework for developing similar types of mathematical models in the fight against cancer."

The research, funded by an innovation grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, is only the beginning, explains Dr. Kaern. “We worked with a specific kind of cancer cell. We will now expand that to look at other cancer cell types and see to what degree the predictions we made in one special case can be generalized to others, and to identify strategies to target other types of cancer cells.”

The findings may also help researchers better understand the interaction between these cancer cells and the virus. While one magic cure-all will likely never happen due to cancer’s complexity, the researchers have developed a framework where they can learn more about the disease in the cases where the simulations don’t match.

“From my perspective, that’s the most interesting part,” concluded Dr. Kaern. “The most fascinating thing is to challenge existing knowledge represented in a mathematical model and try to understand why these models sometimes fail. It’s a very exciting opportunity to be a part of this, and I am glad that our efforts in training students in computational cell biology have resulted in such a significant advancement.”

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Predictive Model for Breast Cancer Progression
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.
Specific Variations in RNA Splicing Linked to Breast Cancer
Researchers have identified cellular changes that may play a role in converting normal breast cells into tumors. Targeting these changes could potentially lead to therapies for some forms of breast cancer.
Gene Expression: A Snapshot of Stem Cell Development
New genes found that regulate development of stem cells.
Assessing Cancer Patient Survival and Drug Sensitivity
RNA editing events another way to investigate biomarkers and therapy targets.
Editing Genes to Create HIV Killers
Seattle scientists have managed to genetically transform human cells in the lab from HIV targets to HIV killers, and the technique could have implications for cancer and other diseases.
Researchers Disguise Drugs As Platelets to Target Cancer
Researchers have for the first time developed a technique that coats anticancer drugs in membranes made from a patient’s own platelets.
A New Single-Molecule Tool to Observe Enzymes at Work
A team of scientists at the University of Washington and the biotechnology company Illumina have created an innovative tool to directly detect the delicate, single-molecule interactions between DNA and enzymatic proteins.
Milestone Single-Biomolecule Imaging Technique May Advance Drug Design
The first nanometer resolved image of individual tobacco mosaic virions shows the potential of low-energy electron holography for imaging biomolecules at a single particle level; a milestone in structural biology and a potential new tool for drug design.
Opening the Door to Safer, More Precise Cancer Therapies
New method regulates when, and how strongly, cancer-killing therapeutic T cells are activated.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos