Although the development of secondary cancerous growths, called metastasis, is the primary cause of death in most cancers, the cellular changes that drive it are poorly understood. In a new study, published in Genome Biology, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a new modeling approach to better understand how tumors become aggressive.
“Researchers have identified several cellular pathways that change when a tumor becomes aggressive. However, it is difficult to understand how they affect the tumor,” said Steven Offer, an assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at Mayo Clinic, Minnesota. “We wanted to develop a simple system that can model how cancer cells form an aggressive tumor.”
The researchers pooled the data from their own experiments as well as publicly available data to develop the model, which was based on a simpler 2018 model that investigated regulators of cancer drug resistance. In this paper, they specifically focused on transcription factors, which are proteins that control gene expression by binding to the DNA.