Modeling Tumor Response to Therapy

Due to the inherent risks associated with physically examining brain tumors, glioblastomas are primarily followed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Unfortunately, these images are unable to show tumor cells directly. Rather, they show changes in the brain caused by the tumor, such as leaky vasculature or extra swelling. This makes it difficult to see clearly whether some therapies are effectively working.

Anti-angiogenic therapy inhibits the tumor's ability to recruit new vasculature and, as a side effect, commonly reduces the leakiness of the tumor vasculature impairing the physician's ability to see the tumor.

The base mathematical model developed by Dr. Swanson's research team, based only on the individual's tumor cells' net rate of invasion and proliferation, is unable to predict imaging changes as they would correspond to tumor cell changes. To understand the effects of anti-angiogenic therapy on an individual level, this project's focus is to develop an extension of the basic model to include leaky vasculature and brain swelling due to extra fluid. This model, once fully validated, will help identify people with glioblastomas that are not responding to therapy even when physicians cannot see the tumor image.