When eradication is impossible, cancer treatment aims to delay the emergence of resistance while minimizing cancer burden and treatment. Adaptive therapies may achieve these aims, with success based on three assumptions: resistance is costly, sensitive cells compete with resistant cells, and therapy reduces the population of sensitive cells. We use a range of mathematical models and treatment strategies to investigate the tradeoff between controlling cell populations and delaying the emergence of resistance. These models extend game theoretic and competition models with four additional components: 1) an Allee effect where cell populations grow more slowly at low population sizes, 2) healthy cells that compete with cancer cells, 3) immune cells that suppress cancer cells, and 4) resource competition for a growth factor like androgen. In comparing maximum tolerable dose, intermittent treatment, and adaptive therapy strategies, no therapeutic choice robustly breaks the three-way tradeoff among the three therapeutic aims. Almost all models show a tight tradeoff between time to emergence of resistant cells and cancer cell burden, with intermittent and adaptive therapies following identical curves. For most models, some adaptive therapies delay overall tumor growth more than intermittent therapies, but at the cost of higher cell populations. The Allee effect breaks these relationships, with some adaptive therapies performing poorly due to their failure to treat sufficiently to drive populations below the threshold. When eradication is impossible, no treatment can simultaneously delay emergence of resistance, limit total cancer cell numbers, and minimize treatment. Simple mathematical models can play a role in designing the next generation of therapies that balance these competing objectives.
Citation: Cassidy K. Buhler, Rebecca S. Terry, Kathryn G. Link, Frederick R. Adler. Do mechanisms matter? Comparing cancer treatment strategies across mathematical models and outcome objectives[J]. Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, 2021, 18(5): 6305-6327. doi: 10.3934/mbe.2021315
When eradication is impossible, cancer treatment aims to delay the emergence of resistance while minimizing cancer burden and treatment. Adaptive therapies may achieve these aims, with success based on three assumptions: resistance is costly, sensitive cells compete with resistant cells, and therapy reduces the population of sensitive cells. We use a range of mathematical models and treatment strategies to investigate the tradeoff between controlling cell populations and delaying the emergence of resistance. These models extend game theoretic and competition models with four additional components: 1) an Allee effect where cell populations grow more slowly at low population sizes, 2) healthy cells that compete with cancer cells, 3) immune cells that suppress cancer cells, and 4) resource competition for a growth factor like androgen. In comparing maximum tolerable dose, intermittent treatment, and adaptive therapy strategies, no therapeutic choice robustly breaks the three-way tradeoff among the three therapeutic aims. Almost all models show a tight tradeoff between time to emergence of resistant cells and cancer cell burden, with intermittent and adaptive therapies following identical curves. For most models, some adaptive therapies delay overall tumor growth more than intermittent therapies, but at the cost of higher cell populations. The Allee effect breaks these relationships, with some adaptive therapies performing poorly due to their failure to treat sufficiently to drive populations below the threshold. When eradication is impossible, no treatment can simultaneously delay emergence of resistance, limit total cancer cell numbers, and minimize treatment. Simple mathematical models can play a role in designing the next generation of therapies that balance these competing objectives.
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