Modeling individual time courses of thrombopoiesis during multi-cyclic chemotherapy

PLoS Comput Biol. 2019 Mar 6;15(3):e1006775. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006775. eCollection 2019 Mar.


Background: Thrombocytopenia is a major side-effect of cytotoxic cancer therapies. The aim of precision medicine is to develop therapy modifications accounting for the individual's risk.

Methodology/principle findings: To solve this task, we develop an individualized bio-mechanistic model of the dynamics of bone marrow thrombopoiesis, circulating platelets and therapy effects thereon. Comprehensive biological knowledge regarding cell differentiation, amplification, apoptosis rates, transition times and corresponding regulations are translated into ordinary differential equations. A model of osteoblast/osteoclast interactions was incorporated to mechanistically describe bone marrow support of quiescent cell stages. Thrombopoietin (TPO) as a major regulator is explicitly modelled including pharmacokinetics and-dynamics of TPO injections. Effects of cytotoxic drugs are modelled by transient depletions of proliferating cells. To calibrate the model, we used population data from the literature and close-meshed individual data of N = 135 high-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients treated with CHOP-like chemotherapies. To limit the number of free parameters, several parsimony assumptions were derived from biological data and tested via Likelihood methods. Heterogeneity of patients was explained by a few model parameters. The over-fitting issue of individual parameter estimation was successfully dealt with a virtual participation of each patient in population-based experiments. The model qualitatively and quantitatively explains a number of biological observations such as the role of osteoblasts in explaining long-term toxic effects, megakaryocyte-mediated feedback on stem cells, bi-phasic stimulation of thrombopoiesis by TPO, dynamics of megakaryocyte ploidies and non-exponential platelet degradation. Almost all individual time series could be described with high precision. We demonstrated how the model can be used to provide predictions regarding individual therapy adaptations.

Conclusions: We propose a mechanistic thrombopoiesis model of unprecedented comprehensiveness in both, biological mechanisms considered and experimental data sets explained. Our innovative method of parameter estimation allows robust determinations of individual parameter settings facilitating the development of individual treatment adaptations during chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blood Platelets / cytology
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / drug therapy
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / pathology
  • Megakaryocytes / cytology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Polyethylene Glycols / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Thrombocytopenia / chemically induced*
  • Thrombopoiesis / drug effects*
  • Thrombopoietin / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Thrombopoietin

Grant support

This work was financed by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, Grant number 031A424 “HaematoOPT”. The funders had no role in data collection, analysis or preparation of the manuscript.