Computational systems biology in cancer: modeling methods and applications
In recent years it has become clear that carcinogenesis is a complex process, both at the molecular and cellular levels. Understanding the origins, growth and spread of cancer, therefore requires an integrated or system-wide approach. Computational systems biology is an emerging sub-discipline in systems biology that utilizes the wealth of data from genomic, proteomic and metabolomic studies to build computer simulations of intra and intercellular processes. Several useful descriptive and predictive models of the origin, growth and spread of cancers have been developed in an effort to better understand the disease and potential therapeutic approaches. In this review we describe and assess the practical and theoretical underpinnings of commonly-used modeling approaches, including ordinary and partial differential equations, petri nets, cellular automata, agent based models and hybrid systems. A number of computer-based formalisms have been implemented to improve the accessibility of the various approaches to researchers whose primary interest lies outside of model development. We discuss several of these and describe how they have led to novel insights into tumor genesis, growth, apoptosis, vascularization and therapy.