Differences in predictions of ODE models of tumor growth: A cautionary example

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BACKGROUND While mathematical models are often used to predict progression of cancer and treatment outcomes, there is still uncertainty over how to best model tumor growth. Seven ordinary differential equation (ODE) models of tumor growth (exponential, Mendelsohn, logistic, linear, surface, Gompertz, and Bertalanffy) have been proposed, but there is no clear guidance on how to choose the most appropriate model for a particular cancer. METHODS We examined all seven of the previously proposed ODE models in the presence and absence of chemotherapy. We derived equations for the maximum tumor size, doubling time, and the minimum amount of chemotherapy needed to suppress the tumor and used a sample data set to compare how these quantities differ based on choice of growth model. RESULTS We find that there is a 12-fold difference in predicting doubling times and a 6-fold difference in the predicted amount of chemotherapy needed for suppression depending on which growth model was used. CONCLUSION Our results highlight the need for careful consideration of model assumptions when developing mathematical models for use in cancer treatment planning.




Murphy, H., Jaafari, H., & Dobrovolny, H. M. (2016). Differences in predictions of ODE models of tumor growth: A cautionary example. BMC Cancer, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-016-2164-x

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