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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Sep 4;109(36):14586-91. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203559109. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Impact of genetic dynamics and single-cell heterogeneity on development of nonstandard personalized medicine strategies for cancer.

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Simons Center for Systems Biology, School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.


Cancers are heterogeneous and genetically unstable. Current practice of personalized medicine tailors therapy to heterogeneity between cancers of the same organ type. However, it does not yet systematically address heterogeneity at the single-cell level within a single individual's cancer or the dynamic nature of cancer due to genetic and epigenetic change as well as transient functional changes. We have developed a mathematical model of personalized cancer therapy incorporating genetic evolutionary dynamics and single-cell heterogeneity, and have examined simulated clinical outcomes. Analyses of an illustrative case and a virtual clinical trial of over 3 million evaluable "patients" demonstrate that augmented (and sometimes counterintuitive) nonstandard personalized medicine strategies may lead to superior patient outcomes compared with the current personalized medicine approach. Current personalized medicine matches therapy to a tumor molecular profile at diagnosis and at tumor relapse or progression, generally focusing on the average, static, and current properties of the sample. Nonstandard strategies also consider minor subclones, dynamics, and predicted future tumor states. Our methods allow systematic study and evaluation of nonstandard personalized medicine strategies. These findings may, in turn, suggest global adjustments and enhancements to translational oncology research paradigms.

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