I am pleased to report that our paper has now been accepted. You can download the accepted preprint here. We also have a lot of supplementary material, including simulation movies, simulation datasets (for 0, 15, 30, adn 45 days of growth), and open source C++ code for postprocessing and visualization.
I discussed the results in detail here, but here’s the short version:
- We use a mechanistic, agent-based model of individual cancer cells growing in a duct. Cells are moved by adhesive and repulsive forces exchanged with other cells and the basement membrane. Cell phenotype is controlled by stochastic processes.
- We constrained all parameter expected to be relatively independent of patients by a careful analysis of the experimental biological and clinical literature.
- We developed the very first patient-specific calibration method, using clinically-accessible pathology. This is a key point in future patient-tailored predictions and surgical/therapeutic planning.
- The model made numerous quantitative predictions, such as:
- The tumor grows at a constant rate, between 7 to 10 mm/year. This is right in the middle of the range reported in the clinic.
- The tumor’s size in mammgraphy is linearly correlated with the post-surgical pathology size. When we linearly extrapolate our correlation across two orders of magnitude, it goes right through the middle of a cluster of 87 clinical data points.
- The tumor necrotic core has an age structuring: with oldest, calcified material in the center, and newest, most intact necrotic cells at the outer edge.
- The appearance of a “typical” DCIS duct cross-section varies with distance from the leading edge; all types of cross-sections predicted by our model are observed in patient pathology.
- The model also gave new insight on the underlying biology of breast cancer, such as:
- The split between the viable rim and necrotic core (observed almost universally in pathology) is not just an artifact, but an actual biomechanical effect from fast necrotic cell lysis.
- The constant rate of tumor growth arises from the biomechanical stress relief provided by lysing necrotic cells. This points to the critical role of intracellular and intra-tumoral water transport in determining the qualitative and quantitative behavior of tumors.
- Pyknosis (nuclear degradation in necrotic cells), must occur at a time scale between that of cell lysis (on the order of hours) and cell calcification (on the order of weeks).
- The current model cannot explain the full spectrum of calcification types; other biophysics, such as degradation over a long, 1-2 month time scale, must be at play.
The Macklin Math Cancer Lab is pleased to welcome Gianluca D’Antonio, a M.S. student of Luigi Preziosi and mathematician from Politecnico di Torino. Gianluca, who brings with him a wealth of expertise in biomechanics modeling, will spend 6 months at CAMM at the Keck School of Medicine of USC to model basement membrane deformation by growing tumors, biomechanical feedback between the stroma and growing tumors, and related problems. Gianluca’s interests and expertise fit very nicely into our broader vision of mechanistic cancer modeling, as well as USC / CAMM’s focus on applying the physical sciences to cancer (as part of the USC-led PSOC).
He is our first international visiting scholar, and we’re very excited for the multidisciplinary work we will accomplish together! So, please join us in welcoming Gianluca!