Investigating the development of chemotherapeutic drug resistance in cancer: A multiscale computational study
Chemotherapy is one of the most important therapeutic options used to treat human cancers, either alone or in combination with radiation therapy and surgery. Recent studies have indicated that intra-tumoural heterogeneity has a significant role in driving resistance to chemotherapy in many human malignancies. Multiple factors including the internal cell-cycle dynamics and the external microenvironement contribute to the intra-tumoural heterogeneity. In this paper we present a hybrid, multiscale, individual-based mathematical model, incorporating internal cell-cycle dynamics and changes in oxygen concentration, to study the effects of delivery of several different chemotherapeutic drugs on the heterogeneous subpopulations of cancer cells with varying cell-cycle dynamics. The computational simulation results from the multiscale model are in good agreement with available experimental data and support the hypothesis that slow-cycling sub-populations of tumour cells within a growing tumour mass can induce drug resistance to chemotherapy and thus the use of conventional chemotherapy may actually result in the emergence of dominant, therapy-resistant, slow-cycling subpopulations of tumour cells. Our results indicate that the appearance of this chemotherapeutic resistance is mainly due to the inability of the administered drug to target all cancer cells irrespective of the stage in the cell-cycle they are in i.e. most chemotherapeutic drugs target cells in a particular phase/phases of the cell-cycle, and hence always spare some cancer cells that are not in the targeted cell-cycle phase/phases. The results also suggest that this cell-cycle-mediated drug resistance may be overcome by using multiple doses of cell-cycle, phase-specific chemotherapy that targets cells in all phases and its appropriate sequencing and scheduling.