Systems biology: Perspectives on multiscale modeling in research on endocrine-related cancers

Robert Clarke, John J. Tyson, Ming Tan, William T. Baumann, Lu Jin, Jianhua Xuan, Yue Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Drawing on concepts from experimental biology, computer science, informatics, mathematics and statistics, systems biologists integrate data across diverse platforms and scales of time and space to create computational and mathematical models of the integrative, holistic functions of living systems. Endocrine-related cancers are well suited to study from a systems perspective because of the signaling complexities arising from the roles of growth factors, hormones and their receptors as critical regulators of cancer cell biology and from the interactions among cancer cells, normal cells and signaling molecules in the tumor microenvironment. Moreover, growth factors, hormones and their receptors are often effective targets for therapeutic intervention, such as estrogen biosynthesis, estrogen receptors or HER2 in breast cancer and androgen receptors in prostate cancer. Given the complexity underlying the molecular control networks in these cancers, a simple, intuitive understanding of how endocrine-related cancers respond to therapeutic protocols has proved incomplete and unsatisfactory. Systems biology offers an alternative paradigm for understanding these cancers and their treatment. To correctly interpret the results of systems-based studies requires some knowledge of how in silico models are built, and how they are used to describe a system and to predict the effects of perturbations on system function. In this review, we provide a general perspective on the field of cancer systems biology, and we explore some of the advantages, limitations and pitfalls associated with using predictive multiscale modeling to study endocrine-related cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R345-R368
JournalEndocrine-related cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by Public Health Service Awards U01-CA184902, U54-CA149147, and DoD-BCRP-CA171885 to R Clarke, the Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center grant (P30-CA51008-19), R01-CA164717 to M Tan, and R01-CA201092 to W T Baumann.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Endocrinology Published by Bioscientifica Ltd.


  • F systems biology f mathematical biology f computational biology f predictive modeling


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