Tumor cells do not develop in isolation, but co-evolve with stromal cells and tumor-associated immune cells in a tumor microenvironment mediated by an array of soluble factors, forming a complex intercellular signaling network. Herein, we report an unbiased, generic model to integrate prior biochemical data and the constructed brain tumor microenvironment in silico as characterized by an intercellular signaling network comprising 5 types of cells, 15 cytokines, and 69 signaling pathways. The results show that glioma develops through three distinct phases: pre-tumor, rapid expansion, and saturation. We designed a microglia depletion therapy and observed significant benefit for virtual patients treated at the early stages but strikingly no therapeutic efficacy at all when therapy was given at a slightly later stage. Cytokine combination therapy exhibits more focused and enhanced therapeutic response even when microglia depletion therapy already fails. It was further revealed that the optimal combination depends on the molecular profile of individual patients, suggesting the need for patient stratification and personalized treatment. These results, obtained solely by observing the in silico dynamics of the glioma microenvironment with no fitting to experimental/clinical data, reflect many characteristics of human glioma development and imply new venues for treating tumors via selective targeting of microenvironmental components.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics