Modeling in Medicine: Case Studies in Cancer and COVID-19

David Odde
University of Minnesota, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Friday, January 27, 2023 - 11:00am
Ramsay Wright Building, Room 432
Invited Speaker Seminar
Modeling and simulation is widely used in engineering for technology development, but rarely used for therapy development. In this seminar I will present two case studies of how we are using physics-based modeling to advance fundamental, translational, and clinical science. The first case study focuses on cancer, in particular glioblastoma, which remains a deadly cancer driven by invasion of tumor cells into the brain. Transcriptomic analyses have revealed distinct molecular subtypes, but mechanistic and targetable differences are not clear. Using a state-of-the-art immunocompetent mouse model for glioblastoma, we found that, as predicted by the motor-clutch model for cell migration (Chan and Odde, Science, 2008; Klank et al., Cell Rep, 2017), mesenchymal glioma cells are more spread, generate larger traction forces, and migrate faster in brain tissue compared to proneural cells. These findings open up new opportunities for subtype-specific therapies. In addition, our model enabled discovery of negative durotaxis, i.e. preferential migration toward softer environments, which will allow us to predict cancer progression with greater accuracy. The second case study focuses on mathematical modeling of SARS-CoV-2 replication. We found that that some steps, including protein translation, are especially good targets, while others, such as those mediating viral entry, were relatively poor targets. Remarkably, in the subsequent two years since we developed the model, we found that it has accurately predicted 7 out 7 drugs as recommended for or against in the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines. In addition, the model motivated a phase 3, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial in the early outpatient setting for metformin (COVID-OUT; NCT04510194). We found a 42% reduction in hospitalization/ED visits in the first 14 days (aOR=0.58; 95% CI, 0.35 to 0.94). In addition, we found a 42% reduction in Long Covid (PASC) over a 10 month follow-up period (HR=0.58; 95% CI 0.38 to 0.88). Given that metformin is available globally, well-tolerated, and inexpensive ($0.48 per course of treatment), it could provide an important new tool for limiting the impacts of both acute and Long Covid world-wide.
Sergey Plotnikov
Dept of Cell and Systems Biology
Live Stream Link: