Personalized logical models to investigate cancer response to BRAF treatments in melanomas and colorectal cancers
The study of response to cancer treatments has benefited greatly from the contribution of different omics data but their interpretation is sometimes difficult. Some mathematical models based on prior biological knowledge of signaling pathways facilitate this interpretation but often require fitting of their parameters using perturbation data. We propose a more qualitative mechanistic approach, based on logical formalism and on the sole mapping and interpretation of omics data, and able to recover differences in sensitivity to gene inhibition without model training. This approach is showcased by the study of BRAF inhibition in patients with melanomas and colorectal cancers who experience significant differences in sensitivity despite similar omics profiles.
We first gather information from literature and build a logical model summarizing the regulatory network of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway surrounding BRAF, with factors involved in the BRAF inhibition resistance mechanisms. The relevance of this model is verified by automatically assessing that it qualitatively reproduces response or resistance behaviors identified in the literature. Data from over 100 melanoma and colorectal cancer cell lines are then used to validate the model’s ability to explain differences in sensitivity. This generic model is transformed into personalized cell line-specific logical models by integrating the omics information of the cell lines as constraints of the model. The use of mutations alone allows personalized models to correlate significantly with experimental sensitivities to BRAF inhibition, both from drug and CRISPR targeting, and even better with the joint use of mutations and RNA, supporting multi-omics mechanistic models. A comparison of these untrained models with learning approaches highlights similarities in interpretation and complementarity depending on the size of the datasets.
This parsimonious pipeline, which can easily be extended to other biological questions, makes it possible to explore the mechanistic causes of the response to treatment, on an individualized basis.