Systems biology and combination therapy in the quest for clinical efficacy

Nat Chem Biol. 2006 Sep;2(9):458-66. doi: 10.1038/nchembio817.


Combinatorial control of biological processes, in which redundancy and multifunctionality are the norm, fundamentally limits the therapeutic index that can be achieved by even the most potent and highly selective drugs. Thus, it will almost certainly be necessary to use new 'targeted' pharmaceuticals in combinations. Multicomponent drugs are standard in cytotoxic chemotherapy, but their development has required arduous empirical testing. However, experimentally validated numerical models should greatly aid in the formulation of new combination therapies, particularly those tailored to the needs of specific patients. This perspective focuses on opportunities and challenges inherent in the application of mathematical modeling and systems approaches to pharmacology, specifically with respect to the idea of achieving combinatorial selectivity through use of multicomponent drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Drug Therapy, Combination*
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Models, Biological*
  • Systems Biology*