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BMC Bioinformatics. 2013;14 Suppl 6:S11. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-14-S6-S11. Epub 2013 Apr 17.

Multi-level model for the investigation of oncoantigen-driven vaccination effect.

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Computer Science Department, University of Turin, Corso Svizzera 185, Torino, Italy.



Cancer stem cell theory suggests that cancers are derived by a population of cells named Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) that are involved in the growth and in the progression of tumors, and lead to a hierarchical structure characterized by differentiated cell population. This cell heterogeneity affects the choice of cancer therapies, since many current cancer treatments have limited or no impact at all on CSC population, while they reveal a positive effect on the differentiated cell populations.


In this paper we investigated the effect of vaccination on a cancer hierarchical structure through a multi-level model representing both population and molecular aspects. The population level is modeled by a system of Ordinary Differential Equations (ODEs) describing the cancer population's dynamics. The molecular level is modeled using the Petri Net (PN) formalism to detail part of the proliferation pathway. Moreover, we propose a new methodology which exploits the temporal behavior derived from the molecular level to parameterize the ODE system modeling populations. Using this multi-level model we studied the ErbB2-driven vaccination effect in breast cancer.


We propose a multi-level model that describes the inter-dependencies between population and genetic levels, and that can be efficiently used to estimate the efficacy of drug and vaccine therapies in cancer models, given the availability of molecular data on the cancer driving force.

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