Spatial Heterogeneity and Evolutionary Dynamics Modulate Time to Recurrence in Continuous and Adaptive Cancer Therapies

Cancer Res. 2018 Apr 15;78(8):2127-2139. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-2649. Epub 2018 Jan 30.


Treatment of advanced cancers has benefited from new agents that supplement or bypass conventional therapies. However, even effective therapies fail as cancer cells deploy a wide range of resistance strategies. We propose that evolutionary dynamics ultimately determine survival and proliferation of resistant cells. Therefore, evolutionary strategies should be used with conventional therapies to delay or prevent resistance. Using an agent-based framework to model spatial competition among sensitive and resistant populations, we applied antiproliferative drug treatments to varying ratios of sensitive and resistant cells. We compared a continuous maximum-tolerated dose schedule with an adaptive schedule aimed at tumor control via competition between sensitive and resistant cells. Continuous treatment cured mostly sensitive tumors, but with any resistant cells, recurrence was inevitable. We identified two adaptive strategies that control heterogeneous tumors: dose modulation controls most tumors with less drug, while a more vacation-oriented schedule can control more invasive tumors. These findings offer potential modifications to treatment regimens that may improve outcomes and reduce resistance and recurrence.Significance: By using drug dose modulation or treatment vacations, adaptive therapy strategies control the emergence of tumor drug resistance by spatially suppressing less fit resistant populations in favor of treatment sensitive ones. Cancer Res; 78(8); 2127-39. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Computational Biology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Maximum Tolerated Dose
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Recurrence


  • Antineoplastic Agents