Created by: Giulia Celora

Issue 170: In our recent work, we have developed a mathematical model to study how phenotypic heterogeneity affects tumour’s response to radiotherapy. In our model, a cell’s phenotype is described as a continuous variable ranging from stem-like resistant cells (red) to fully-differentiated sensitive cells (blue). Further, a cell phenotype is not static but rather changes in response to local oxygen levels. Our cover illustrates the effect of different oxygen dynamics on the evolution of tumour’s composition and size (white curve) during treatment (left: one dose; right: two doses). In the top row, oxygen levels remain high so that surviving cells transition from a stem-like (red) to a differentiated (blue) state after each radiation dose. In the bottom row, instead, radiation-induced damage of blood vessels results in transient exposure to low oxygen levels. Importantly, we see that now surviving cells maintain stem-like features making a second radiation dose less effective than in the well-oxygenated scenario. Overall, our results suggest that the interplay between oxygen and cell adaption might be key to understanding tumour dynamics in the absence and presence of treatment. Learn more about our work and how our findings apply to treatment planning here. Also, stay tuned for the upcoming spatially-resolved extension of the model.

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