An agent-based model of triple-negative breast cancer: The interplay between chemokine receptor CCR5 expression, cancer stem cells, and hypoxia

Kerri Ann Norton, Travis Wallace, Niranjan B. Pandey, Aleksander S. Popel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Triple-negative breast cancer lacks estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 receptors and is thus not possible to treat with targeted therapies for these receptors. Therefore, a greater understanding of triple-negative breast cancer is necessary for the treatment of this cancer type. In previous work from our laboratory, we found that chemokine ligand-receptor CCL5-CCR5 axis is important for the metastasis of human triple-negative breast cancer cell MDA-MB-231 to the lymph nodes and lungs, in a mouse xenograft model. We collected relevant experimental data from our and other laboratories for numbers of cancer stem cells, numbers of CCR5+ cells, and cell migration rates for different breast cancer cell lines and different experimental conditions. Results: Using these experimental data we developed an in silico agent-based model of triple-negative breast cancer that considers surface receptor CCR5-high and CCR5-low cells and breast cancer stem cells, to predict the tumor growth rate and spatio-temporal distribution of cells in primary tumors. We find that high cancer stem cell percentages greatly increase tumor growth. We find that anti-stem cell treatment decreases tumor growth but may not lead to dormancy unless all stem cells get eliminated. We further find that hypoxia increases overall tumor growth and treatment with a CCR5 inhibitor maraviroc slightly decreases overall tumor growth. We also characterize 3D shapes of solid and invasive tumors using several shape metrics. Conclusions: Breast cancer stem cells and CCR5+ cells affect the overall growth and morphology of breast tumors. In silico drug treatments demonstrate limited efficacy of incomplete inhibition of cancer stem cells after which tumor growth recurs, and CCR5 inhibition causes only a slight reduction in tumor growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number68
JournalBMC Systems Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 11 2017


  • Breast cancer
  • Computational model
  • Systems biology
  • Tumor heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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