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Using a systems biology approach to understand and study the mechanisms of metastasis

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Metastasis remains the main cause for cancer‐related deaths due to the lack of effective therapy. The clonal selection model has long been thought to be the primary mechanism of metastatic progression but many different mechanisms have been hypothesized for the progression from tumorigenesis to the successful dissemination and expansion of tumor cells at the secondary site. MicroRNAs, germline polymorphisms in combination with the tumor microenvironment are few of the different pathways to explain the metastatic cascade. Technological advances for high‐throughput screening of cells such as expression profiling, next generation sequencing, as well as global network analyses have advanced the studies of these mechanisms. Combined with new insights into the various mechanisms of metastasis a systems biology approach has also been shown to be useful in identifying metastasis‐specific gene signatures as well as predicting disease outcome. Furthermore, the results of these studies have been relevant for identifying biomarkers for metastatic disease. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2014, 6:107–114. doi: 10.1002/wsbm.1237

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A system biology approach of metastasis. (a) Understanding that metastasis is a complex disease involving many pathways and cell types. (b) Using genetics and next‐generation sequence to understand and study metastasis. (c) Employing expression profiling and network analyses to find disease‐specific signatures. (d) Identifying biomarkers to predict disease and outcome.
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Merryn Tawhai

Merryn Tawhai

Dr. Tawhai is PI for lung modeling activities at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and adjunct Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa. Her research centers on developing multi-scale and multi-physics computational models of structure and function in the lung. A theme that runs through all of her work is the relationship between regional changes in lung structure or function and standard integrated measurements of the lung that are made at the mouth.

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