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TAMPA, Fla. – Cancer therapies that target a specific protein have improved outcomes for patients. However, many patients eventually develop resistance to these targeted therapies and their cancer comes back. It is believed that differences among tumor cells, or heterogeneity, may contribute to this drug resistance. Moffitt Cancer Center researchers are using a unique approach by combining typical cell culture studies with mathematical modeling to determine how heterogeneity within a tumor and the surrounding tumor environment affect responses to targeted drug therapies. Their study was published online in PLOS Biology.

Cells within a single tumor can be very different. They may have different genetic characteristics leading to different protein levels or activity, and act differently in response to a stimulus or targeted therapy. Additionally, the surrounding tumor environment can produce chemical signals that further alter tumor cells and their response to targeted therapies.

The typical approach that researchers use to study cancer development and treatment is to consider the cells within a given tumor to be the same and to have a similar response to therapy. However, this assumption is not what actually occurs and tends to limit the design of effective cancer therapies. By using mathematical modeling and

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