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PLoS Comput Biol. 2018 Mar 26;14(3):e1005985. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005985. eCollection 2018 Mar.

A mechanistic pan-cancer pathway model informed by multi-omics data interprets stochastic cell fate responses to drugs and mitogens.

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Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, United States of America.
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, United States of America.


Most cancer cells harbor multiple drivers whose epistasis and interactions with expression context clouds drug and drug combination sensitivity prediction. We constructed a mechanistic computational model that is context-tailored by omics data to capture regulation of stochastic proliferation and death by pan-cancer driver pathways. Simulations and experiments explore how the coordinated dynamics of RAF/MEK/ERK and PI-3K/AKT kinase activities in response to synergistic mitogen or drug combinations control cell fate in a specific cellular context. In this MCF10A cell context, simulations suggest that synergistic ERK and AKT inhibitor-induced death is likely mediated by BIM rather than BAD, which is supported by prior experimental studies. AKT dynamics explain S-phase entry synergy between EGF and insulin, but simulations suggest that stochastic ERK, and not AKT, dynamics seem to drive cell-to-cell proliferation variability, which in simulations is predictable from pre-stimulus fluctuations in C-Raf/B-Raf levels. Simulations suggest MEK alteration negligibly influences transformation, consistent with clinical data. Tailoring the model to an alternate cell expression and mutation context, a glioma cell line, allows prediction of increased sensitivity of cell death to AKT inhibition. Our model mechanistically interprets context-specific landscapes between driver pathways and cell fates, providing a framework for designing more rational cancer combination therapy.

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