Dynamic targeting in cancer treatment

Zhihui Wang, Thomas S. Deisboeck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


With the advent of personalized medicine, design and development of anti-cancer drugs that are specifically targeted to individual or sets of genes or proteins has been an active research area in both academia and industry. The underlying motivation for this approach is to interfere with several pathological crosstalk pathways in order to inhibit or at the very least control the proliferation of cancer cells. However, after initially conferring beneficial effects, if sub-lethal, these artificial perturbations in cell function pathways can inadvertently activate drug-induced up- and down-regulation of feedback loops, resulting in dynamic changes over time in the molecular network structure and potentially causing drug resistance as seen in clinics. Hence, the targets or their combined signatures should also change in accordance with the evolution of the network (reflected by changes to the structure and/or functional output of the network) over the course of treatment. This suggests the need for a “dynamic targeting” strategy aimed at optimizing tumor control by interfering with different molecular targets, at varying stages. Understanding the dynamic changes of this complex network under various perturbed conditions due to drug treatment is extremely challenging under experimental conditions let alone in clinical settings. However, mathematical modeling can facilitate studying these effects at the network level and beyond, and also accelerate comparison of the impact of different dosage regimens and therapeutic modalities prior to sizeable investment in risky and expensive clinical trials. A dynamic targeting strategy based on the use of mathematical modeling can be a new, exciting research avenue in the discovery and development of therapeutic drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2019


  • Drug discovery
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Network medicine
  • Signaling pathway
  • Therapeutic target
  • Translational research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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