Micropharmacology: An In Silico Approach for Assessing Drug Efficacy Within a Tumor Tissue

  • Aleksandra Karolak
  • Katarzyna A. RejniakEmail author
Special Issue: Mathematics to Support Drug Discovery and Development


Systemic chemotherapy is one of the main anticancer treatments used for most kinds of clinically diagnosed tumors. However, the efficacy of these drugs can be hampered by the physical attributes of the tumor tissue, such as tortuous vasculature, dense and fibrous extracellular matrix, irregular cellular architecture, tumor metabolic gradients, and non-uniform expression of the cell membrane receptors. This can impede the transport of therapeutic agents to tumor cells in sufficient quantities. In addition, tumor microenvironments undergo dynamic spatio-temporal changes during tumor progression and treatment, which can also obstruct drug efficacy. To examine ways to improve drug delivery on a cell-to-tissue scale (single-cell pharmacology), we developed the microscale pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (microPKPD) modeling framework. Our model is modular and can be adjusted to include only the mathematical equations that are crucial for a biological problem under consideration. This modularity makes the model applicable to a broad range of pharmacological cases. As an illustration, we present two specific applications of the microPKPD methodology that help to identify optimal drug properties. The hypoxia-activated drugs example uses continuous drug concentrations, diffusive–advective transport through the tumor interstitium, and passive transmembrane drug uptake. The targeted therapy example represents drug molecules as discrete particles that move by diffusion and actively bind to cell receptors. The proposed modeling approach takes into account the explicit tumor tissue morphology, its metabolic landscape and/or specific receptor distribution. All these tumor attributes can be assessed from patients’ diagnostic biopsies; thus, the proposed methodology can be developed into a tool suitable for personalized medicine, such as neoadjuvant chemotherapy.


Drug penetration microPKPD Single-cell pharmacology Tumor tissue architecture Targeted therapeutics Hypoxia-activated pro-drugs 


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Integrated Mathematical Oncology DepartmentH. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research InstituteTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oncologic Sciences, Morsani College of MedicineUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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