The phycologist, M. R. Droop, studied vitamin B12 limitation in the flagellate Monochrysis lutheri and concluded that its specific growth rate depended on the concentration of the vitamin within the cell; i.e. the cell quota of the vitamin B12. The Droop model provides a mathematical expression to link growth rate to the intracellular concentration of a limiting nutrient. Although the Droop model has been an important modeling tool in ecology, it has only recently been applied to study cancer biology. Cancer cells live in an ecological setting, interacting and competing with normal and other cancerous cells for nutrients and space, and evolving and adapting to their environment. Here, the Droop equation is used to model three cancers.
First, prostate cancer is modeled, where androgen is considered the limiting nutrient since most tumors depend on androgen for proliferation and survival. The model's accuracy for predicting the biomarker for patients on intermittent androgen deprivation therapy is tested by comparing the simulation results to clinical data as well as to an existing simpler model. The results suggest that a simpler model may be more beneficial for a predictive use, although further research is needed in this field prior to implementing mathematical models as a predictive method in a clinical setting.
Next, two chronic myeloid leukemia models are compared that consider Imatinib treatment, a drug that inhibits the constitutively active tyrosine kinase BCR-ABL. Both models describe the competition of leukemic and normal cells, however the first model also describes intracellular dynamics by considering BCR-ABL as the limiting nutrient. Using clinical data, the differences in estimated parameters between the models and the capacity for each model to predict drug resistance are analyzed.
Last, a simple model is presented that considers ovarian tumor growth and tumor induced angiogenesis, subject to on and off anti-angiogenesis treatment. In this environment, the cell quota represents the intracellular concentration of necessary nutrients provided through blood supply. Mathematical analysis of the model is presented and model simulation results are compared to pre-clinical data. This simple model is able to fit both on- and off-treatment data using the same biologically relevant parameters.