Original Paper

Cancer Microenvironment

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 159-170

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Systems Biology: A Therapeutic Target for Tumor Therapy

  • Albrecht ReichleAffiliated withDepartment of Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital of Regensburg Email author 
  • , Thomas VogtAffiliated withDepartment of Dermatology, University Hospital Regensburg


Tumor-related activities that seem to be operationally induced by the division of function, such as inflammation, neoangiogenesis, Warburg effect, immune response, extracellular matrix remodeling, cell proliferation rate, apoptosis, coagulation effects, present itself from a systems perspective as an enhancement of complexity. We hypothesized, that tumor systems-directed therapies might have the capability to use aggregated action effects, as adjustable sizes to therapeutically modulate the tumor systems’ stability, homeostasis, and robustness. We performed a retrospective analysis of recently published data on 224 patients with advanced and heavily pre-treated (10% to 63%) vascular sarcoma, melanoma, renal clear cell, cholangiocellular, carcinoma, hormone-refractory prostate cancer, and multivisceral Langerhans’ cell histiocytosis enrolled in nine multi-center phase II trials (11 centers). Each patient received a multi-targeted systems-directed therapy that consisted of metronomic low-dose chemotherapy, a COX-2 inhibitor, combined with one or two transcription modulators, pioglitazone +/− dexamethasone or IFN-alpha. These treatment schedules may attenuate the metastatic potential, tumor-associated inflammation, may exert site-specific activities, and induce long-term disease stabilization followed by prolonged objective response (3% to 48%) despite poor monoactivity of the respective drugs. Progression-free survival data are comparable with those of reductionist-designed standard first-line therapies. The differential response patterns indicate the therapies’ systems biological activity. Understanding systems biology as adjustable size may break through the barrier of complex tumor-stroma-interactions in a therapeutically relevant way: Comparatively high efficacy at moderate toxicity. Structured systems-directed therapies in metastatic cancer may get a source for detecting the topology of tumor-associated complex aggregated action effects as adjustable sizes available for targeted biomodulatory therapies.


Systems biology Tumor microenvironment Transcription factors Pioglitazone PPARs Dexamethasone Interferon-alpha COX-2 inhibitor Metronomic low dose chemotherapy