Liver cancer is a major global health problem, responsible for the 3rd most cancer deaths worldwide. Diagnosis often occurs at late stages, at which point liver tumors have complex tumor/stroma interactions across multiple spatial and temporal scales. The resulting multiscale interactions drive tumor progression and therapeutic response. The proposed project will develop new mathematical/computational techniques to model molecular, cellular, tumor, and organ scales to elucidate the mechanisms driving liver cancer progression and to predict the response to targeted therapeutics. The investigator team is uniquely suited to develop the proposed multiscale models of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. The expertise of the four PIs/PDs is synergistic, combining a state of the art multiscale computational models of cancer (Dr. Popel) with molecular and cellular features inferred from bioinformatics analysis (Dr. Fertig) using state of the art 3D in vitro organoid models (Dr. Ewald) and in vivo mouse models of HCC (Dr. Tran). The well-integrated experimental/computational design of the proposal will result in new algorithms for predictive computational modeling of therapeutic response in HCC. We include extensive experimental studies for model development, parameter tuning, and validation.
Specific Aim 1 will infer bioinformatically the signaling pathways important in crosstalk between cancer and stromal cells, integrate models of intracellular signaling and 3D extracellular ligand transport and biochemical reactions and embed them into the cell fate decision rules of an agent-based model of cellular agents resulting in a multiscale hybrid model. The model will be parameterized with phospho- proteomic data under relevant ligand stimulations identified by the bioinformatics analysis and with growth, invasion, proteomic, and genomic data from co-cultured cancer and stromal cells and organoids; independent data will be used for model validation. We will use this model to predict outcomes in a 3D in vitro organoid model of HCC.
Specific Aim 2 will extend and adapt this hybrid model to model the tumor microenvironment and to account for the drug pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic, the 3D geometry of the liver, molecular interactions in vivo and cellular composition inferred from bioinformatics analysis. Finally, Specific Aim 3 will develop new bioinformatics analysis algorithms to initialize the model with distribution of cellular agents and molecular states from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) genomic and proteomic data to predict the efficacy of targeted therapeutics in the diverse genetic backgrounds of human liver cancer. The project will develop innovative computational techniques to integrate features at both the molecular and cellular scales from genomics and proteomics analysis with multiscale computational models to predict therapeutic response. The resulting computational algorithms will address the IMAG cutting edge challenge of fusing data-rich and data- poor scales for predictive multiscale computational modeling of biological systems.

Public Health Relevance

Liver cancer is a major global cause of mortality, with no systemic agent demonstrating meaningful activity against complex, late-stage tumors. This project will develop new computational techniques to incorporate intra- and intercellular signaling learned from bioinformatics analysis in innovative mathematical models spanning molecular, cellular, tumor, and organ scales. The resulting multiscale model will be the first to predict therapeutic response for liver cancer, addressing the dire and unmet need to improve treatment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZEB1)
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Li, Jerry
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Johns Hopkins University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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