A Personalized Therapeutics Approach Using an In Silico Drosophila Patient Model Reveals Optimal Chemo- and Targeted Therapy Combinations for Colorectal Cancer

Front Oncol. 2021 Jul 16;11:692592. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.692592. eCollection 2021.


In silico models of biomolecular regulation in cancer, annotated with patient-specific gene expression data, can aid in the development of novel personalized cancer therapeutic strategies. Drosophila melanogaster is a well-established animal model that is increasingly being employed to evaluate such preclinical personalized cancer therapies. Here, we report five Boolean network models of biomolecular regulation in cells lining the Drosophila midgut epithelium and annotate them with colorectal cancer patient-specific mutation data to develop an in silico Drosophila Patient Model (DPM). We employed cell-type-specific RNA-seq gene expression data from the FlyGut-seq database to annotate and then validate these networks. Next, we developed three literature-based colorectal cancer case studies to evaluate cell fate outcomes from the model. Results obtained from analyses of the proposed DPM help: (i) elucidate cell fate evolution in colorectal tumorigenesis, (ii) validate cytotoxicity of nine FDA-approved CRC drugs, and (iii) devise optimal personalized treatment combinations. The personalized network models helped identify synergistic combinations of paclitaxel-regorafenib, paclitaxel-bortezomib, docetaxel-bortezomib, and paclitaxel-imatinib for treating different colorectal cancer patients. Follow-on therapeutic screening of six colorectal cancer patients from cBioPortal using this drug combination demonstrated a 100% increase in apoptosis and a 100% decrease in proliferation. In conclusion, this work outlines a novel roadmap for decoding colorectal tumorigenesis along with the development of personalized combinatorial therapeutics for preclinical translational studies.

Keywords: Boolean network models; cancer systems biology; combinatorial therapeutics; personalized in silico cancer models; preclinical in silico drug screening.